This is the second installment of the “Fantastic Beasts” series featuring Newt Scamander and is a part of the “wizarding world” of JK Rowling. Intent on setting up Grindelwald as a high profile antagonist in the future films, we see the movie start an array of plots and subplots, each executed with varying levels of competency. None of which come close to be even called functioning.
The primary plot is the one where Newt Scamander is charged by Dumbledore to track down the child named Credence and stop the evil wizard Grindelwald in Paris. The Ministries of Magic from London and New York are also busy consolidating their efforts to find Grindelwald. Fortunately for Newt this is additional incentive to go to Paris, as it allows him to re-establish contact with Tina and rekindle their romance. There is also a wildcard in the form of Yusuf Kama, who is out to kill Credence as well. Then there is also a weird twist where the bounty hunter hired by the Ministry of Magic is actually secretly working for Grindelwald. Then there is a trace of a relationship between Credence and Nagini as they both are members of the same circus group. Finally, we also have Queenie and Jacob from the previous films, whose relationship is falling apart due to differences over how it should proceed. These are just the ones I remember; I’m certain there are more.
Through the various character arcs, the screenplay relies on exposition dumps, most of which only aggravate the stagnating plot. The most apparent example here is the painfully tedious flashback as narrated by Yusuf. He tries to justify how Credence is a member of the Lestrange family and in the same breath explain why he must kill Credence in order to exact revenge. This is followed by a particularly weak reversal by Leta to explain why that is not the case and how she was involved in an inadvertent case of child swapping. All of this leaves the audience yawning, that too literally minutes before the climax of the film. The remaining expository business is present solely to capitalize on the audience’s nostalgia for Hogwarts. They’re draped with moneyshots, very obviously intended for fan service. Clearly, the author seems to be having a hard time growing out of that school of hers.
The movie also spends a lot of time establishing relationships and familiarity between characters, which turn out to be completely inconsequential over the course of the movie. For example the relationships between Leta and Dumbledore, Leta and Newt, Nagini and Credence are just the more obvious ones. Hell, Nagini does literally nothing but stand around for the entire movie. I’d speculate that the film is carrying around so much dead weight in order to setup various payoffs in the numerous sequels that have been planned. But doing it without the slightest attention it has on the current one, is unforgivable.
Given the unusual amount of plots and the lack of focus on the subtext, the various plotholes only make the situation worse. I don’t want to do this, but it’ so bad that the list below is actually non-exhaustive.
- We never find out what the bounty hunter actually achieves in terms of the plot by killing Credence’s babysitter as she did not seem to have any real information that could be revealed.
- Unlike the first film, Jacob is a particularly massive dead weight, where his only job is to find Queenie and but then lose her to the dark side anyway.
- Why were Newt, Tina and Leta attacked by the librarian at the Paris HQ of the Ministry of Magic? Why did they turn to cats on leaving the Ministry? How did they teleport without any explanation directly to the Lestrange tomb, just in time for the climax of the movie?
- The civilians of Paris also seem to be completely unfazed or unaware of their surroundings. The sighting of various monsters and black clothes flying in the sky doesn’t seem to raise the slightest eye whatsoever.
- What was going on with the Tycho prophecy? Was it true or was it not? Did it actually hold up? How did Grindelwald know to move the box from the Ministry into the tomb? What was the statue of the guy lying down doing there?
- What about Newt’s Assistant’s crush on Newt? Why is it in the movie when we’re expected to forget about it?
- Why does Grindelwald hate Paris/France? What is its relevance?
- Why does token wildcard Yusuf Kama have some weird worm in his eye? What purpose does it serve in the plot?
- What was the point of putting Dumbledore under surveillance if that did not lead to anything substantial in the plot?
- How does Grindelwald know Credence’s real name is Aurelius Dumbledore? If he knows this, why doesn’t Albus Dumbledore also know this?
- How did Grindelwald obtain the fancy imagery of WW2? Why is he always smoking a skull like a bong, what sort of huffing a skull grants one powers to read the future?
Even the subtext, where present is mercilessly brought into the open with an patronising explanation for the audience. Yusuf’s loud and repeated attempts to clarify the parts of his prophecy that are relevant and Dumbledore’s obvious choice of Newt for his qualities of goodness are examples that come to mind. Even Grindelwald’s jibber jabber to convince the pure blooded wizards to join him is a shallow ruse, which throw his motivations off the center stage.
The overarching problems I see with the story are as follows. Grindelwald’s motivations seem to be exactly those that of Voldemort. Nothing has changed in these films, when compared to the Harry Potter franchise. Same as before, Grindelwald too wants to expose everything that is magical to the non-magical folks and then rule over them. The core idea always being that the magical folk are superior and meant to rule over all non magical folk. The only difference is in the approach, which too is tactical and not even strategic.
This movie is in shambles and could’ve trimmed away a whole lot of that excess plot. It would seem that ideas that work particularly well in writing a book may not always translate well to a screenplay.