‘Fantastic Beasts’ sequel not as magical as first movie

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When it was announced that the Harry Potter saga would continue with the release of “Fantastic Beasts and Where to find them,” Harry Potter fans like me were ecstatic to escape back into the world of witchcraft and wizardry.

The first film, set in the 1920s, followed Newt Scamander and his magical creatures through several mishaps. With stunning visual effects, costuming and a cute storyline, the film was a great reminder of why the Harry Potter franchise has been so successful.

Naturally, I was excited when I heard that the next installment of the “Fantastic Beasts” saga, “The Crimes of Grindelwald,” was released. But I was bitterly disappointed with the film after watching it.

For those of you who are devout “Potterheads,” or who simply don’t want to read any spoilers, I suggest you read another section of the paper now.

“The Crimes of Grindelwald” follows yet another wizard gone bad who wants to destroy the world as we know it: Gellert Grindelwald.

Sounds familiar, right?

Except this time, instead of the bad guy being a menacing, soulless, snake-man, the bad guy is Johnny Depp.
Although I am a fan of Depp, I do not think that he is a good fit for the Harry Potter universe, and the casting mishaps don’t end there.

In the film, Jude Law appears as young Dumbledore, a wise and pedantic wizard that fans know from the original films. However, Law’s performance does not do justice to the quiet-spoken, mysterious and powerful wizard that we all know and love, and his performance fell short of my expectations.

Casting aside, the storyline of the film lacks originality. Unlike the first “Fantastic Beasts” film, this film attempts to recreate the original Harry Potter storyline with the battle between the good versus the evil side of wizardry, which I think was beaten to death with the first eight Harry Potter films.

There are a few redeemable aspects of the film, though.

The introduction of Nagini and her backstory was interesting. Fans know Nagini as the faithful sidekick of Voldemort and as the snake that he entrusts to hold one of his many Horcruxes. In the film, it is revealed that Nagini is a maledictus, a human who has been cursed and will soon be permanently trapped in the body of a beast. Nagini’s natural inclination toward Credence, one of the tortured villains in the film, shows her inclination to the dark side of the wizarding world and foreshadows her bond with Voldemort.

For those who have read the Harry Potter series, there are a few easter eggs throughout the film. Grindelwald and Dumbledore’s unbreakable vow is symbolized with a pendant that Grindelwald wears around his neck. Furthermore, the film alludes to Dumbledore’s lost brother, Aurelius, and reveals that Credence is Dumbledore’s lost sibling.

The film also has some Newt Scamander moments that provide relief from the dull storyline. In the film, Scamander wrangles a loose zouwu, an elephant-sized cat, with a small cat toy. Scamander’s niffler and bowtruckle also make appearances throughout the film. The interactions between Scamander and his creatures bring viewers back to the original light-hearted and cute “Fantastic Beasts” film.

There was one point in the plot that hit me emotionally. The relationship between Queenie and Jacob was introduced in the first “Fantastic Beasts” film, and it reappeared in this film as well. But their relationship is rocked when Queenie is swayed by Grindelwald, who he promises to give wizards the freedom to marry no-majs, non-magical people, like Jacob.

When Queenie chooses the dark side over Jacob and joins Grindelwald, it is a sad moment for viewers. But it is also frustrating. Queenie doesn’t understand that Grindelwald hates people of non-magical dissent, and is instead blinded by her own desires. Her naivety and my consequent frustration with it ruined the most heart-wrenching aspect of the film.

As a viewer, I wanted a unique journey back into the Harry Potter universe. Instead, I got another over-used storyline with a villain that wasn’t scary. Despite its few redeemable qualities, this film really missed the mark for me. Sorry, not sorry, Potterheads.