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REVIEW: ‘Fantastic Beasts 2’ is a confusing mess, unless you’re a ‘Harry Potter’ expert

November 16th, 2018 / By: Michael Foust / comments

REVIEW: ‘Fantastic Beasts 2’ is a confusing mess, unless you’re a ‘Harry Potter’ expert

Newt Scamander is an awkward-but-brilliant good wizard living in a country -- the United States -- where there are two classes of people: the magical and the non-magical.

They’ve lived in peace for more than century, but times are changing. That’s because an evil wizard named Grindelwald has escaped from prison with the goal of leading an uprising among the magical people and ruling over the non-magical people. His ultimate goal, though, involves eliminating them.

For the timid Scamander, such news is alarming.

“The time is coming,” his brother tells him, “when everyone” will have to pick a side.

Scamander eventually agrees to help stop Grindelwald, but will it be enough?

The movie Fantastic Beasts 2: The Crimes of Grindelwald (PG-13) opens this weekend, starring Eddie Redmayne (Les Miserables) as Newt Scamander, Johnny Depp (Pirates of the Caribbean series) as Grindelwald, and Jude Law (Sherlock Holmes, Hugo) as Albus Dumbledore.

It is the second film in what is scheduled to be a five-part Fantastic Beast film series. They’re written by J.K. Rowling and are considered a prequel to her popular Harry Potter book and movie series.

I enjoyed the first Fantastic Beasts film. But this second film is among the most confusing and poorly developed big-name films I’ve seen. The movie’s supposed main story -- Grindelwald against the world -- takes a backseat. In its place are a series of scenes and angles without obvious connection. There’s a romance angle, a circus angle, a wizarding school angle and an adoption angle. Additionally, there are too many characters, and they’re introduced with little explanation of their role. Unless you are a Harry Potter expert -- or unless Rowling is sitting in the next seat explaining everything -- you’ll likely be lost.

Warning: minor/moderate spoilers!

(Scale key: none, minimal, moderate, extreme)

Violence/Disturbing

Moderate. Grindelwald is an eerie-looking guy who uses magic to escape from captivity. He kills a few people (mostly off camera). Later, we see him and his companions in a house, making non-magical people disappear. A toddler is among his victims. Magical beasts make several appearances, although the scariest one (which looks like a dragon) can be easily tamed. We see a woman morph into a snake. A person falls dead. We see a lady on the floor dead. A bug-like creature is pulled from someone’s eye. The movie ends with a magic-filled battle between Grindelwald and others.    

Sexuality/Sensuality/Nudity

Minimal. A man and woman kiss in public. A couple of women wear low-cut dresses. We also see a marble female nude statue.

Rowling and the director were quoted in media reports as saying Grindelwald and Dumbledore are gay. This film, though, doesn’t depict that in any obvious way.

Coarse Language

Minimal. H--l (2). Also one “geez.”

Other Stuff You Might Want To Know

A character tries to find his birth mom.

Life Lessons

Unlike other people, Newt is a humble person who chases after the good. As his friend says, “You don’t seek power or popularity.” There are multiple lessons within this pretend world’s division between magical and non-magic people. Among them: a lesson on not judging people based on their appearance and a lesson on loving people despite your differences. (A magical woman plans on marrying a non-magical man -- something that is against the law.)    

Worldview

Fantastic Beasts 2 is a world with “good” magic and “bad” magic. Scripture, though, doesn’t make such divisions. In the Bible, it’s just “magic” -- and it’s bad.

Still, it’s worth considering: Why are movies about magic and the supernatural realm so prevalent and popular? Perhaps it’s because humans are naturally intrigued by supernatural things -- that is, by non-material things that exist on the other side of death. The irony, of course, is that such a world does exist and that it’s more spectacular than anything our moviegoing friends will witness on the big screen. It’s a world of angels and demons and an all-powerful God. And it’s detailed in the pages of the Bible. That’s a conversation worth having with your Harry Potter-loving neighbors, no matter your opinion on the popular franchise. They’re enamored with a fake supernatural world. But we know the God of a very real supernatural world -- a God who loves them.    

Discussion Questions

  1. Did you watch and like the Harry Potter series? Why or why not?
  2. What is your view of magic in movies? When, if ever, is it OK?
  3. Are there situations in our world similar to the divisions between the magical and non-magical people? Explain.      

Entertainment rating: 2 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

Rated PG-13 for some sequences of fantasy action.