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When I saw the first Fantastic Beasts movie back in 2016, I was...whelmed. The visuals were good, I liked Jacob and Newt, and the ending had a couple unique beats that made it memorable, but overall it just felt kinda generic and, to some degree, like another graphics test film like Film/Avatar (particularly the beast showoff scene in the second act). Additionally, Grindelwald's reveal was trash, through and through. Suffice it to say, I don't go into this movie with soaring expectations.
Thankfully, Crimes of Grindelwald is an upgrade, though how significant of one I'm still not sure. Let's start with the positives (spoilers ahead):
-The opening sequence is great and feels like something out of a horror movie while simultaneously showing off just how powerful, cunning, and ruthless Grindelwald is.
-Newt and Jacob continue to carry the movie on their shoulders through sheer talent and humor. Love those guys.
-Magic this time around is much more diverse in application and function - shoutout to the gold-themed detection spell Newt uses to track down Tina.
-Grindelwald's an asshole, but Depp's natural charm leads you to fall for him and his speeches about saving the world by overthrowing the Muggle order (till you remember the murders). His scene with Queenie also works wonders for this.
-The brief romance scene between Newt and Tina is awkward, fumbling, realistic, and endearing as all hell because of it, without definitively putting them into relationship territory.
-Jude Law as a young, hot Dumbledore is perfection - he draws on the original series' portrayal in just the right amount while still adding his own dimensions to the character to make it clear that they're the same person at different points in their life.
-Nagini and her casting are great, fuck the haters.
Now for the negatives:
-Too. Many. Characters. The first movie didn't have this problem, and I didn't expect it going into this one, but hot damn there are some focus issues here. Yusuf starts out as one character and ends as a completely different one without even a semblance of Character Development (hello, random slam poetry), Nikolas Flamel was a great cameo but really did not need a second scene featuring him saving the day, and Krall...I had to look on the character page to find his damn name, his two scenes were that unnecessary. Could've cut him out altogether and given his lines to Vinda. She was cool, if completely insane.
-Infanticide, not once but twice. I'm all for dark shit in my media but did we really need this to happen TWICE in a Harry Potter movie? C'mon.
-I love Erza Miller as Corvus, but his whole plotline about discovering his true identity is just...convoluted. Also, his final scene is cool and all, but if Grindelwald is in fact lying about him being Aurelius Dumbledore that's just gonna prolong this shit even more.
All said, the positives outnumber the negatives, but the negatives were so pervasive across the movie that it soured what was otherwise a pretty solid experience. It left me more invested for part 3 than the first movie did for this sequel, so there's that, but there's still much to be done before we can get a truly great entry in this franchise, and it saddens me that no one aside from the actors seems to be putting their best foot forward here.
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