Arts & Culture

Potter prequel ‘Fantastic Beasts’ lacks luster, magic

Returning actors add charm to otherwise disappointing, confusing second installment

By
Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, November 29, 2018

Eddie Redmayne — pictured above — returned to the ‘Fantastic Beasts’ series as protagonist Newt Scamander, portraying the prequel’s hero with an adorable, gentle and childlike presence. Other returning actors include Dan Fogler and Alison Sudol who play Jacob and Queenie respectively.

The release of “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” presents yet another effort to destroy the world of Harry Potter. Characterized by disorder, the film is arguably the worst of the recent additions to the Harry Potter franchise and is likely to disappoint most true Potterheads. To start with, the film suffers from a convoluted and forced plot that follows from the first installment of the Fantastic Beast series: Dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald has just staged a grand escape and desires to create a new Wizarding World Order. Credence, who is an obscurial — a wizard who hosts a magical parasite within him, the result of suppressing his magical ability — is plagued by an identity crisis and is determined to discover who he truly is. Meanwhile, protagonist Newt Scamander is given the task of preventing Grindelwald from gaining control of Credence’s powers. At first glance, the premise may sound somewhat compelling, but the film lacks structure and simply fails to juggle its multiple story lines. Indeed, the story grows so muddled that it even necessitated the creation of a “crash course” by the New York Times to help the “most learned of Harry Potter fans” understand the story and its bizarre ending. 

Plot critiques aside, one must admit that the returning actors retain their charm. Though most of their roles have been somewhat relegated to the margins, the actors succeed in remaining true to the characters they play. The performances of actors Dan Fogler and Alison Sudol continue to be in-character and add personality to Jacob’s and Queenie’s unique relationship. Eddie Redmayne, in particular, superbly embodies Newt’s adorable, gentle and childlike persona.

The film also introduces several new cast members including Johnny Depp as Grindelwald and Jude Law as Albus Dumbledore. While controversy surrounds the casting of Depp in the franchise on account of domestic abuse allegations, the introduction of Law as Dumbledore was undoubtedly a fine decision. Law’s splendid performance as a young, attractive Dumbledore is one of the few appealing moments in this installment, though unfortunately his screen time is grossly limited. 

A more incongruous introduction is the depiction of Nagini as a formerly human figure, which is sure to jar fans of the original series. This backstory adds questionable value to an already perplexing plot, and the decision to cast Korean actress Claudia Kim in the role is also one that fans have criticized, worrying that the portrayal plays into harmful racial stereotypes.

Without giving anything away, the film concludes with a “plot twist” that is so implausible, one must pity the creators for having to resort to such a far-fetched end. Ultimately, it is quite disconcerting to think that the film is only the second in a five-part series. After all, “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” tells a sad, but incontestable tale: The magic of Harry Potter can go no further. Stop messing with it.