By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)

The Wizarding World saga continues with what is essentially its second chapter in the franchise.  This follow up to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them picks up months after the events of the previous film and attempts to delve into darker and more mature territory with stronger and more obvious connections to the Harry Potter movies.  Though the movie does accomplish this, it also runs a little lengthy and heavy with exposition.  The movie may offer audiences a heavier chapter with greater stakes, but the filmmakers bog it down with explanations that often distract and detract from all the fun magical material.

Since the last film, fugitive dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) has been kept safely locked up and disarmed.  Still, the intelligent and powerful wizard manages to escape and proceeds to take his dastardly plans to a larger scale.  These plans involve recruiting the powerful, but tormented wizard Creedence Barebone (Ezra Miller) who has been searching for the truth behind his mysterious background.  Meanwhile, the Magical Congress of the United States and its British counterpart hope to thwart Grindelwald’s plans and eliminate the potentially greater threat of Creedence.  Convinced that the authorities are going about things the wrong way, Professor Dumbledore (Jude Law) asks his beloved former student Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) to find and protect Creedence before it is too late

Written by J.K. Rowling and directed by David Yates, this latest entry in the Wizarding World does offer a more compelling story, but often struggles to present it in compelling ways.  Too much time lags when the characters try to explain (in sometimes tiresome detail) the connections some of the characters have and their motivations.  Honestly, this kind of story would work much better as part of a television series where episodes could be dedicated to better develop these stories and plots.  When attempted in 134 minute film, the pacing suffers.  The other problem it causes is that certain turning points for characters do get rushed, thus softening their power.

Nevertheless, I still enjoyed this movie overall. Sure, the themes and subplots are highly derivative and not executed outstandingly, but Yates, Rowling and the crew do manage to make a film with fun moments, gorgeous visuals, and multiple nods to the Harry Potter stories. I am sure that fans of this movie universe will absolutely love this film and its stronger connections to the Potter films.  However, I also feel that casual admirers will get lost in all of the subplot clutter and magical mumbo jumbo.

Another positive aspect in its favor is the mostly great acting executed by the talented cast.  Johnny Depp gives a delightfully restrained and subtle turn as Gellert Grindelwald, a seductive, but calculating villain who actually makes some valid points for his wicked deeds.  Eddie Redmayne once again perfectly embodies the sweet and boyish Newt Scamander, a shy and unassuming wizard who would rather tend to his beloved creatures than get involved in the drama ensuing around him.  Jude Law makes for a welcome new addition to the franchise as the younger Albus Dumbledore. Making some welcome and enjoyable reprisals are Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogel, Alison Studel, and Ezra Miller.  This new installment also features some fun work by newcomers Zoë Kravitz, Callum Turner, Claudia Kim, and William Nadylam.

Despite the film’s problems, I still recommend the latest Fantastic Beasts chapter, but this recommendation is much stronger for the Harry Potter fans.  I think that those casually invested will find themselves often bored, but occasionally enchanted with the film’s real magic.  I am curious about what is coming next, but I cannot honestly say that this movie left me desperately wanting more.


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