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“Fantastic Beasts” is a fantastic failure

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“Fantastic Beasts” is a fantastic failure

Katherine Beyer, Staff Writer

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“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” is a Fantastic Failure The latest installment of J.K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts series, “The Crimes of Grindelwald,” invites viewers to return to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter for the second adventure of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and his menagerie of mystical companions. The journey, unfortunately, is anything but magical.

The first film in this second series of Harry Potter movies, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them ,” offered a charming, if somewhat jumbled, story of Newt working with an unlikely group of allies to recover his lost creatures and save America from a mysterious young wizard named Credence (Ezra Miller), whose powers are coveted by the dark wizard Grindelwald (Johnny Depp). The sequel, however, loses no time in awkwardly re-inserting characters whose storylines were resolved in the first film. While the forced rewrite was questionable enough on its own, these characters, as well as several new additions, only serve to further muddle an already-inundated plot and ultimately contribute very little to the story. The characters of real import, including the ever-elusive Credence and an unusual friend, could not hold my interest, as more time was always devoted to their over-complicated backstories than their actual personalities. I doubt that Credence, despite rising to be a central character in this film, ever mustered more than a couple of sentences of dialogue in any of his scenes. Lengthy scenes were instead devoted to delving into character histories, which proved to be redundant as new information was instantly revealed that invalidated them. It’s enough to make anyone’s head spin.

Furthermore, the content of the movie itself, as long and complex as it was, failed to come together as a cohesive story. Rather, the movie felt like two hours of transition; it paved the way for new developments in future films but could not stand well on its own. The closest scene to a climax was an impressive display of the special effect team’s talents, but nothing more. Even the main setting of Paris, France, seemed to be skating around the center of the Harry Potter universe. While a few scenes of our beloved Hogwarts made their way in, the majority of the film featured Newt and his gang in France, fruitlessly searching for answers. Additionally, I found the plot, while convoluted in its content, relied on many twists and surprises reminiscent of a bad soap opera- basic misunderstandings such as a magazine misprint that leads Newt’s friend and potential romantic interest Tina (Katherine Waterston) to believe he is engaged to marry another woman. Such foolish misunderstandings would realistically take only a second to clear up, but instead are used to create unnecessary tension between characters and further stall the action from rising. The film, like any true Harry Potter movie, also takes a few stabs at humor, but watching Newt lick the ground in an attempt to track down Credence, or stammer over how Tina has eyes like a salamander, was more worthy of a cringe than a laugh.

While the movie may have been nothing magical in its writing, the cast is a different story. Eddie Redmayne once again excels as protagonist Newt Scamander, creating a character that is easy to support and sympathize with as he struggles to save the world.

Albus Dumbledore, played by the talented Jude Law, also joins the cast, and his appearances, while not extensive, are welcome in the midst of the tangled plot. The fantastic beasts referred to in the title- with the exception of pack of shockingly fake-looking demon cats- are delightfully animated, and together with the actors’ talents are able to come to life on screen. Indeed, the film is peppered with so many magical creatures, as well swigs of Polyjuice Potion and unexpected references to and appearances by familiar characters, that it’s difficult to forget that this is the same world that Harry Potter grew up in years later. And I really wanted to be able to enjoy it. But “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” amounted to a poorly written middle-movie that left little to look forward to for the future of the Harry Potter series.

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“Fantastic Beasts” is a fantastic failure