REVIEW: Casting mishaps, poor direction plague ‘Fantastic Beasts’ sequel

Eddie Redmayne stars as Newt Scamander in “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald,” the second installment of the Harry Potter spin-off series. The movie released Friday and opened at $62.2 million in the box office. (Photo from IMDb)

“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald,” the second release of  the Harry Potter prequel series, is a disappointing attempt at continuing the adventures of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and his magical companions in 1920s London.

This time, the group attempts to seek out and connect with Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller), who was revealed to be an Obscurial, a type of magical parasite produced by the repression of magical powers. The film follows Credence’s search for his family before dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) finds him.

While the feature brings longtime Harry Potter fans back into the mystical universe, director David Yates leaves the audience jarred and disappointed with his cinematographic choices.

Yates’ decision to focus on the relationship between Newt and his brother Theseus (Callum Turner)  affects the plot’s progression; their interaction is limited and unessential in terms of Newts’ journey to find Credence. There were awkward sequences in the British Ministry of Magic where Yates opted for close-ups on the faces of Newt and Theseus. The fast cuts jolt the audience’s view from one brother to another, creating a disconnect from the story.

Zoë Kravitz’s acting chops were tested in her role as Leta Lestrange, especially compared to  the ensemble’s veteran actors like Jude Law, Redmayne and Depp. Kravitz’s performance was lackluster, her blank expressions belying the emotions her character was supposed to feel. During an interaction with Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law), the scene lacked the emotional intensity it demanded, as Lestrange was talking about her dead brother.

Claudia Kim’s casting as human Nagini, Voldemort’s pet snake and Horcrux, was bizarre and detracted from the logicality of the plot. While the casting initially seemed like a great stride for diversity, Kim’s contribution was unimportant in terms of character development and involvement.

However, the film successfully gave the audience a message to think about. In writing this sequel for the big screen, author J.K. Rowling emphasizes the characters’ ability to choose which side they can stand on.  

Grindelwald speaks of how the Ministry has failed British wizards and witches, and emphasizes how the world will fall apart with Muggles in charge — showing them premonitions of a war that has not yet happened.

Many characters are baffled as to why Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol) would join Grindelwald on the dark side, but all Queenie wants to do is marry the man that she loves, which is barred by the society she lives in.

What Rowling shows time and time again is that love can drive people to do desperate, and

sometimes, dark things. It is also revealed that Dumbledore makes a blood pact with Grindelwald to not hurt or kill him, considering their romantic history.

While there were enough Easter eggs to keep Potter fans entertained, like cameos from Nicholas Flamel and a young Fawkes, this was not enough to overcome the film’s shortcomings.