Before Harry Potter, There Was Newt Scamander

“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” is a return to the magical, wizardly world of J.K. Rowling and continues the prequel series to the renowned Harry Potter series.  This film is the second to feature Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander, the magizoologist, who studied and catalogued the impossible creatures of the magical realm of the wizards.  He is joined by familiar allies played by Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, and Alison Sudol.   Johnny Depp joins the cast as the persuasive yet malevolent dark wizard, Grindelwald.  Jude Law plays a much younger Dumbledore.

This film has spectacular visual effects and creativity in the realization of the various creatures and characters.  The performances are all very convincing.  Grindelwald actually seems to have more intriguing depths than Harry Potter’s nemesis, Voldemort. I am actually rather fond of Newt because he seems to be the epitome of the reluctant hero, who is still anything but cowardly. I actually may like Newt a bit more than Harry Potter.  I may think on that more.  Newt also seems to have some difficulty with being comfortable around others, but he manages to convey an awkward charm..  He could be considered quite eccentric, but he is also just a nice guy with some formidable magic at his fingertips.

Now, there are some shortcomings that undermine the strengths in this film.  There are too many characters and relationships to keep track of.  There is also what I would call a lack of cohesion in the storytelling.  I am not sure director David Yates signed off on the best editing decisions.  I think some of whatever ended up on the cutting room floor would have actually been more helpful for the audience to track the ploy a bit better.

The film also seems to run pretty long, which I am sure makes the fans of this franchise rather happy.  I probably would be less exasperated if there weren’t so many unexplained threads and rushed explanations.

There is quite a bit of fun to be had, in my opinion, however there were some aspects in the storytelling that could have been better thought out.  Rowling wrote the screenplay herself, however it seems that she let some of the novel writing tendencies bleed through.

I did eventually get more drawn into the story as it progressed onscreen, however it took some concentration.  I liked it better than I expected, but it was tough going through some of it.

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