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Blu-ray Review: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

March 12, 2019

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter prequel series continues with somewhat diminished results in the sequel Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, which follows the entertaining 2016 film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

This film opens with Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) breaking out of prison. The Dark wizard is now loose in Europe, and in search of followers to help him realize his dreams of creating a society where the pure-blood wizards rule over the non-magical beings (No-Majes), whom he views as naturally inferior.

Grindelwald hopes to recruit Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller), who it turns out survived the events of the first film in New York, and has escaped to Paris in hopes of tracking down his birth mother and discovering his true lineage.

The troubled Credence continues to be seen as a threat by the Ministry of Magic, and they put out a bounty on his head. This prompts a young Hogwarts professor by the name of Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) to enlist the help of Magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) to track down Credence and protect him from Grindelwald, in exchange for having Newt’s travel restrictions lifted.

Newt gets help from “muggle” Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), who travels to London under the spell of Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol), as well as her sister Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), who is now working as an Auror for the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA), and his old Hogwarts classmate Leta Lestrange (Zoë Kravitz).

This series is meant to flesh out the larger Wizarding World, and The Crimes of Grindelwald is a film that is heavy on exposition, with a lot of different characters and subplots to keep track of, that are all connected to the mythology of the series in significant or minor ways. Rowling’s ambitious screenplay feels rambling at times, working more to fill in the gaps than it does to tell a standalone story. While I do get the point of this in terms of the overall story arc, on its own terms, The Crimes of Grindelwald starts to drag and the film’s action often gets bogged down by the mechanics of its convoluted plot.

There are still things to like about the film, of course. Redmayne’s delightfully nerdy portrayal of Newt Scamander remains a genuine high point, with him once again perfectly embodying all of the character’s awkward mannerisms that suggest he is on the autism spectrum. The film’s production design remains thoroughly impressive, and Newt’s menagerie of fantastical creatures is still delightful to see realized on screen, including more scene-stealing appearances from the adorable Niffler, who now has a bunch of equally adorable babies.

While the film itself feels like it could use some trimming, David Yates – who is returning to the series for his sixth time in the director’s chair – still manages to stage some engaging and visually captivating set-pieces throughout. The most controversial aspect of the film is the presence of Johnny Depp, and while he is fine in the role of the evil but charismatic leader Grindelwald, I actually sort of wish they had kept Colin Ferrell around from the first one.

The film ultimately feels very much like the second chapter in a much larger story, and the fact that it essentially exists to serve as a bridge between films means that it isn’t entirely satisfying on its own terms. But Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is still a fairly entertaining if uneven piece of world-building, that features a handful of wonderful moments. It’s worth seeing if you are a fan of the series, and I’m still curious to see where the story goes in the third instalment.

The Blu-ray includes a selection of deleted scenes, as well as the three featurettes J.K. Rowling: A World Revealed; Wizards on Screen, Fans in Real Life; and Distinctly Dumbledore. These are complimented by the six-part feature Unlocking Scene Secrets, which is divided into segments that focus on specific elements of the film’s story and production design. There is also an extended cut of the film that is seven minutes longer, but it’s only viewable through the included digital copy.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is a Warner Bros. Home Entertainment release. It’s 134 minutes and rated PG.

Street Date: March 5th, 2019

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