By Cynthia Bujnicki
“The second installment of the “Fantastic Beasts” series set in J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World featuring the adventures of magizoologist Newt Scamander.” —IMDB
Well that was…gosh I can’t think of the right word for this film. As a magical film I loved it. It had the magic and wonderment of the previous film and yet lacked some of that heart that made the Harry Potter franchise so captivating. Now, I loved the film, for what it’s worth. It was a good movie, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t without its problems.
The opening sequence by itself was magical. It was a spectacular show of great cinematography at work. However, everything in the opening was just so condensed and thrown at the viewer. It’s true, you’re going to need to know Potter-lore in order to grasp the impact of the opening of the film. And that’s part of the problem with the film, not that it’s relying on people already knowing the wizarding world, but the fact that it uses so much exposition in order to inform the audience about why everything is so essential. That only hinders the magic of the film that otherwise could have been something great.
That goes on for much of the film, the idea that it tries to explain and draw on all its history in order to build up this new franchise. It could have worked, sure, if exposition were the only problem with the film. Except it wasn’t.
Another major problem with this film is the extensive cast. Now, let’s just get this straight: the cast was amazing. It was a spectacular cast and the chemistry and skill in which they all brought to life their characters were amazing. They had the heart to make the film work, they make the film good, but the problem is that there was too much going on around all of them. No one really had a chance to shine in this film, unlike in the previous film. And that’s not to say that the characters didn’t have heart wrenching story arcs, each of them did, which is again, part of the problem. The film struggled so hard to cram all of this angst and pain and love into one film that ultimately, the audience has trouble grasping onto any of the characters, and the characters suffer the injustices of that. Everything is so rushed, so thrown in there and built up that nothing has time to settle, the film, the characters, the story and emotions, none of them have time to settle down and grab the audience.
The performances are stellar, and the additions of Zoe Kravitz, Claudia Kim, and Jude Law are great additions to the film, but of the three, only one is given the change to shine. Leta, played by Kravitz, gives a heart-wrenching performance, but ultimately, her time in the film was much to short and condensed. The series could have used her so much more, could have delved into her character and her history so much more than it did, making her a heroine with an untimely demise, cutting her role in the franchise into one film. It shouldn’t have been like that because there was so much more the story offered her. She has this pain, this darkness within her, but her love, her empathy, it allows her to shine and be the hero the film needed. Except her story could have lasted longer, more time could have been devoted to bringing this character to life and allowing audiences to truly grab onto her.
Then there is Claudia Kim who plays Nagini the human. Sure, there were worries that she was going to be that stereotypical “Dragon Lady,” but the film stepped away from that. She aligns with light, wary of the wizards who look down at her and abused her for being blood cursed, turning onto a snake day after day. Her portrayal offers much to the role, and it creates this interesting history and interesting journey to see how she goes from here to Voldemort’s beloved snake. But her chemistry with Credence was wasted. Their chemistry was wasted because they have such a strong connection, except the audience, didn’t get to see how that connection was built, what it was built on, and how their relationship functions. Their story is one that was sidelined as well as Leta’s.
Lastly, there’s Queenie and Jacob. These two had one of the more powerful story arcs because she loves him but in America, their love is forbidden. It is something out of Shakespeare and it twists Queenie. It doesn’t make her evil, just susceptible to Grindelwald’s manipulations. She can’t see beyond her own love for Jacob, beyond her pain of being denied the chance to be with him, and this blinds her, but Jacob, his love for her, his love to keep her safe, it keeps his mind and heart open. This breaks them up, creating riffs in the film and their love story. It was powerful, of that there is no doubt, but when it comes down to it, their arc was also condensed and sidelined.
At the end of the day, while I did enjoy the film, very much, it left me wanting more. It left me wanting more out of this film and the story. With a cast as amazing as this, there is no reason the film should feel as though it lost its heart, as though it’s lost its magic. And yet, that’s how it feels. Plot holes aside, the film threw too much at the viewer and simply didn’t let anything digest. (★★★☆☆ | B-)
Directed by David Yates
Written by J. K. Rowling
Based on Characters by J. K. Rowling
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures