Ok, negative headline I know, so let’s take a step back and try for a balanced and fair review of the latest film in the blockbuster Harry Potter franchise, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.
Firstly, I want to acknowledge that most of the lead up to this movie was surrounding the refusal to cut or recast Johnny Depp from the role of Grindelwald, despite significant backlash to his casting.
For those that still want to see it, don’t care, or are on the fence about the whole thing, hopefully this review will help you make up your mind on whether the sequel to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is worth your time and money at the box office.
The story wasn't terrible, it continued on from it's predecessor and it told a simple plot.
Unfortunately when you really break it down, it's a very very simple plot to the point of being almost pointlessly so.
Unlike every other Harry Potter or Fantastic Beasts movie, Crimes of Grindelwald really only hits one or maybe two significant plot points across the entire runtime. Simple enough to avoid major plotholes and certainly not over complicated though, so I'll give it the benefit of the doubt and score it "OK" rather than "Bad".
As mentioned above, very few significant plot points in this movie, and yet the rest of the time isn't filled with non-plot related character development of any kind.
If anything, the only real changes from the beginning of the movie through to the end are that at least one previously well developed character from the franchise has been written into such a bad corner that they'll never recover.
Hardly any new characters are introduced either, and although the portrayals and performances are all good, the movie just doesn't give them anything real to work with.
Some audiences will find it boring and flat throughout, others will be swept up in a magical blockbuster ride from start to finish and most of us, myself included, will generally enjoy enough of it to call it a bit of fun at the cinema, flaws and lack of substance aside.
Here's where Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald really shines, incredible visuals, great effects, stunning costuming, magical creatures and consistent visual cues to tell the magical and fantastical story as clearly as possible.
Some of the action set pieces in particular are world class.
No iconic moments that will cross the score into the cultural identity of a generation here, and not enough emotional moments in the script to allow the music to really tug at the audience in any particular direction, but overall a solid soundtrack as you might expect.
The biggest flaws in this movie must have started with the pitch.
There's not enough plot to drive the movie, the tie-ins to the main Harry Potter franchise are overdone, unnecessary and if anything confusing, the main draw card of seeing the Dumbledore and Grindelwald relationship is totally missing and there are no new ideas introduced that couldn't be covered in a 15 second trailer.
I'm trying not to get pedantic, but having every wizard and witch throwing around the killing curse without saying the words makes Voldemort look like a bit of a chump and as mentioned previously the plot, script and delivery are all fundamentally lacking.
Johnny Depp barely does anything other than wear fancy hair and make-up as Grindelwald anyway, making the decision to keep him in the role even more baffling, and the pacing is thrown out by large time-skips that may or may not have been more interesting parts of the timeline than what was put on the screen.
Different magical spells and effects that have never been seen before are unexplained, leaving the audience with no sense of what we are seeing and driving the cynics among us to realise that it's just an excuse to throw more special effects at an otherwise bland project and hope it makes us leave the cinema happy.
There is nothing new in this movie by any stretch of the imagination.
In terms of family-friendly easy to consume entertainment, nobody misses out on this one. There's nothing offensive, the visuals are universally appealing and the dialogue is so unimportant that there's no great loss if you miss it.
But in terms of understanding what is going on, this movie assumes not only that you've seen all the previous Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts movies, but probably that you've read the books as well, since things are not expanded upon in as much detail on screen as they are in the original written version, but they are alluded to again here.
The one plot point is a cliffhanger to tease the next movie.
Maybe the next one will be better?
If you're going to see it, the visuals are worth seeing on the big screen. But if you're not sure, probably just skip it.