Fantastic Beasts 2: Too much political metaphor and not enough magic

by James Robins / 28 November, 2018
RelatedArticlesModule - Fantastic Beasts 2 Crimes of Grindelwald

Clunky political metaphors and tangled plot lines suck the magic out of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. 

There were simple pleasures to be had in 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. A jaunty prequel to the Harry Potter series, it followed Eddie Redmayne as the awkward, savant-ish Newt Scamander – a “magi-zoologist” more at home with nifflers and bowtruckles than human beings.

Those joys are fleeting in this sequel, a bloated, chaotic and confused saga. It takes the worst aspects of JK Rowling’s universe and doubles down on them – prophesied bloodlines, convenient spells, globe-conquering evil – while ignoring the enchantment.

The doom-monger-in-chief, revealed at the end of Fantastic Beasts, is Grindelwald, played by Johnny Depp, a truly fantastic beast if ever there was one. With pale hair, sharp cheekbones and mismatched eyes, he resembles a nefarious David Bowie.

He flees American custody for Paris, where Scamander and his mismatched pals (including the criminally underused Katherine Waterston) must hunt him down – with a helping hand from Jude Law’s young Albus Dumbledore. Thus, we get to visit the French Ministry of Magic. It’s much the same as the English one only more baroque, slightly ruder and, of course, there’s accordion music.

Between a swamp of waylaid narrative threads, baffling encounters and disposable characters, a shameless political metaphor enters, then overwhelms the frame. By the end, director David Yates is basically howling: “This is a movie for our times!”

Grindelwald speaks of the “birth right” of “purebloods” to rule. In a scene aping the Nazi-era propaganda of Leni Riefenstahl, he lectures a rally of uniformly black-clad followers by paraphrasing Mein Kampf: “Muggles are not lesser but other, not worthless but of other value.”

Late in the film, he flees to a castle in Austria called Nurmengard. And to combat him, our heroes collectively cast a spell that, to my ears anyway, sounded like “civilité!” I mean, really?

Here, the need to relate a fable with parallels to the present moment gets in the way of telling a decent story. Reality is bewildering enough. Leave poor Newt out of it.

Video: Warner Bros. Pictures

IN CINEMAS NOW

★★1/2

This article was first published in the December 1, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

Latest

The key to long-term success after weight-loss surgery
107438 2019-06-26 00:00:00Z Health

The key to long-term success after weight-loss sur…

by Nicky Pellegrino

Weight-loss surgery is becoming more common, but lifestyle and attitude changes are needed for long-term success.

Read more
Matariki feast: Kasey and Karena Bird's family recipes
107605 2019-06-25 11:39:22Z Food

Matariki feast: Kasey and Karena Bird's family rec…

by Lauraine Jacobs

Māori food champions Kasey and Karena Bird share traditional family recipes that are ideal for Matariki.

Read more
Julie Anne Genter on bicycles, babies and what's going to make a better world
107579 2019-06-25 00:00:00Z Profiles

Julie Anne Genter on bicycles, babies and what's g…

by Emma Clifton

The MP made world headlines when she cycled to hospital to give birth. She talks about how this put her and what she stands for in the spotlight.

Read more
Toy Story 4: The beloved franchise reaches a Forky in the road
107472 2019-06-25 00:00:00Z Movies

Toy Story 4: The beloved franchise reaches a Forky…

by Russell Baillie

The fourth Toy Story instalment is clever, enjoyable and refreshingly weird.

Read more
Mitre 10 living wage ruling sets precedent for retail staff - union
Apple set to offer sign-in service to rival Facebook and Google
107596 2019-06-25 00:00:00Z Tech

Apple set to offer sign-in service to rival Facebo…

by Peter Griffin

In the wake of data-privacy scandals, Apple is beefing up protection for owners of its devices.

Read more
Understanding New Zealanders' attitudes to paying tax
107563 2019-06-24 16:28:59Z Business

Understanding New Zealanders' attitudes to paying…

by Nikki Mandow

We are pretty good about paying our taxes here, so why would we willingly go along with avoiding GST?

Read more
Border tax rort: Could you be caught by a Customs crackdown?
107530 2019-06-24 10:19:12Z Business

Border tax rort: Could you be caught by a Customs…

by Nikki Mandow

New Zealand retailers hit by a GST rort that has been going on for at least two years hope officials, Trade Me, ministers and even customers will...

Read more