REVIEW: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, (12a), (a whopping 134 mins)
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is never less than fantastic to look at, gorgeous images of a 1920s Paris, endless odd creatures from the cute to the fearsome and a vast array of even weirder and more wonderful people.
The only trouble is the descending sense of deja vu which hits you as the film progresses – deja vu mixed with a feeling that we are missing the most important piece. Harry Potter.
There is a complete familarity with everything, from the moving pictures to the flame-throwing wands. There’s barely anything we haven’t seen before. It’s just that it was rather better before – for the simple reason that Harry Potter himself used to hold everything together so well. Without him, in this series of prequels, all we have is Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), a floppy-haired, bumbling, shy, hesitant and unimpressive monster catcher who has been sent off by (young)Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) to track down an evil dark wizard who is slowly gathering his forces.
Actually, this is the one big improvement on the Potter films. This time, we haven’t got the faceless Voldemort. This time, it’s the film’s best creation, a peroxide blond funny-eyed Johnny Depp as the effortlessly nasty Gellert Grindelwald. But otherwise, there is a sinking feeling – despite the Paris vistas – that we have all been here before. We even take a trip back to Hogwarts for a while, a trip which simply serves to underline just how much this new series needs an injection of genuinely fresh invention. And boy, does it move at a leisurely pace. You can’t help wishing someone would swish their wand and deliver that tragically-underused Just Get On With It spell. It doesn’t help that there are just too many characters. Wondering how, or indeed whether, they are ever going to fit together into one story is no substitute for the tension this film so painfully lacks. Nor does it ever muster any sense of genuine threat. Instead it offers a curious mix of far too little happening and far too much, all unfolding at the rate of a franchise which knows that it has got another three films to make.
There’s no denying it is absolutely beautiful to watch, but you do wonder what you are watching and why.