Altered Beast [Review: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald]

Score: 3 out of 5 stars
All movies reviewed on the Sci-Fi Gene blog are given a score of 3 out of 5 stars

The second Fantastic Beasts movies takes place in 1927. An Obscurius transforming-rage-monster (it's no coincidence, by the way, that Obscurius rhymes with Mr. Furious) from the first movie is missing presumed alive. It seems everybody wants a piece of him - the Ministry of Magic, the American and French Ministries, Albus Dumbledore, and the naughty wizard Grindelwald, who has inconveniently escaped his US captors. Everybody, that is, except Newt Scamander who refuses to take sides as he is perfectly happy overworking his devoted assistant Bunty and playing with his seaweed-dragon. I know, right? Hufflepuffs... In order to prevent this being a very short trilogy, the Fates, in the form of US wizard Queenie and No-Maj Jacob Kowalski, conspire to send Newt and his family of baby Nifflers after the Obscurius. The trail leads to Paris, where Grindelwald is quite possibly up to something.

There are plenty of great cinematic moments, action set pieces and characters in this film, as well as points of interest for fans of the original series of books and films. Nagini, for example, turns up and is not quite as we remember her. The hypnotic sort-of-fascist Grindelwald is played brilliantly by Johnny Depp, to the extent that you can't tell if his ability to convert followers is a magic power or just extraordinary charisma. It's a rockstar performance vaguely reminiscent of David Bowie's Tesla in The Prestige.

However there are also many disappointments. The plot hinges on Dumbledore's past with Grindelwald and the reason they are unable to move directly against each other - but we get barely a hint of the romance. The Nifflers and Bowtruckles appear to good effect once or twice but not nearly enough, and there are very few new Fantastic Beasts. Human characters also don't get their chance to shine - can we have a Bunty spin-off series please? The plot itself is disjointed and difficult to follow, lacking in flow or perhaps logic, and while in the first movie there was great pleasure in exploring all aspects of US wizard culture and the 1920s setting in general, the second doesn't really get into either real or fictionalized history in the same satisfying way.

All in all, this movie is enjoyable in places but it's less than the sum of its parts and less satisfying than the first movie or the Harry Potter series, leading to the disappointing score of 3 stars out of 5.

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