The lead-up to the film saw arguments over whether it would lean more on the charming and remarkably self-sustained (that is, not affected with prequel-itis) documenting magical beasts story, or the nascent magical fascism civil war story. Insanely, the film seems not too interested either, and much more interested in droning explanations of magical bloodlines for its plot devices, complete with tone-deaf rape backstories. The one genuinely interesting character, with any kind of interesting and sustained characterisation, is dropped in favour of further Johnny Depp antics (which include showing his fellow magicians a trailer for World War II).
The title of the movie tells the story, really, as the titular fantastic beasts are crammed into the moody “political” (Rowling’s politics are grating in their privileged absurdity, when they aren’t just plainly incoherent and nonsensical) story that, in the end, comes to some shuffling off the chessboard, a filler episode before the next instalment, which will apparently skip forward years and be set in Rio de Janeiro. The fifth, and final, instalment the series will be in 1945, she claims, so there’s a lot of timeline movement to be had. The lowkey, pleasant character dynamics and charming plot of the first film seem a distant shadow. What isn’t a distant shadow are the tie-ins to the Harry Potter series, which are as endless as they are incoherent (the much-loved Professor McGonagall existing as a teacher in her thirties before she should have even been born is only the most visible headache).
Jude Law and Katherine Waterson out-act everyone else in the film by an embarrassing margin, especially poor Eddie Redmayne who seems to have been instructed to play Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor but with less charm and not even any semblance of social skills. The contrived story, beyond lifeless direction (hiring the flat-at-best David Yates for the sixth time in this franchise is more a crime than any in the title), and overall lack of meaning add up to the worst entry this “Wizarding World” franchise has seen yet. Two Nifflers, and a Kelpie.