Review: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is a return to the wizarding world created by J.K. Rowling. This sequel to 2016’s Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them follows Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) a short time after the events of the first film. Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) broke out of prison and is looking for Credence (Ezra Miller). Dumbledore (Jude Law) ask Newt to travel to Paris and track down Credence before Grindelwald can find him.

Once in Paris, Newt is reconnects with Tina (Katherine Waterson), who is also looking for Credence, her sister Queenie (Alison Sudol), and his No-Maj friend Jacob (Dan Fogler). The closer the crew gets the Credence, the more mystifying his story becomes.

Meanwhile, Grindelwald is heavily recruiting “pure bloods” and fanning the flames of a new Wizarding Order. The speech Grindelwald gives during the third act could easily be ripped from any hate group rally. All of this leads to one big wand waving showdown between Newt’s crew and Grindelwald.

What makes the Harry Potter world so interesting are the characters and the stories that accompany them. Underneath all the wands, creatures, and magic are characters audiences are invested in. They tell universal stories people can relate to. All of that is out the window in The Crimes of Grindelwald. It’s a 134 min movie with 100 minutes of throwing things against the wall to see what sticks. Some of it sticks, most of it does not.

Zoe Kravitz plays Leta Lestrange. They hint her previous relationship with Newt and her leaning towards dark magic, but the film doesn’t do anything with the character. Jacob is there for comedic relief, but the story doesn’t really need him to bug his eyes out and be amazed by magic. The rest of the supporting cast is there for exposition and they aren’t given much to do.

To be honest, most of this film feels like exposition to get you to the next movie. The story constantly hints at things that are sure to be revealed in the next Fantastic Beasts movie. However, those characters and storylines serve no purpose here.

We’ve seen this story before: Dumbledore sends an awkward young wizard on a mission that will most likely kill them, the young wizard is facing a wizard powerful in the dark arts, wizarding things happen, the young wizard has a crush, and he has a few faithful companions join him on his journey. This sounds really familiar.

Like the previous films, the visuals are great and the special effects are jaw-dropping at times. It’s sad they aren’t attached to a story worth caring about. The story is so ridiculous; the big reveal at the end is laughably bad. There’s nothing magical about this film and there isn’t enough to make next film seem interesting.

Johnny Depp doesn’t work as Grindelwald and he should. He looks like someone doing a weird Jack Sparrow cosplay when he should look menacing. The story constantly mentions how dangerous Grindelwald is but it’s never felt during the film.

Ezra Miller is a fantastic actor and Credence was interesting in the previous film. So why does he spend most of the film staring angrily at the floor? Why are wizards enthralled with the circus? Why are characters walking down the streets freely when they should be hiding? None of what happens in this film makes any sense.

For a Fantastic Beasts movie, the beasts are a small part. The story introduces a few creatures. They show up later as plot devices but aren’t really explored or utilized for anything else.

The Crimes of Grindelwald will appeal to people that love the world of Harry Potter and enjoy these stories. Unfortunately, it’s an uninteresting rehash of similar stories that waste great actors and a fun Dumbledore performance from Jude Law. Hopefully the sequel can do more with this cast and deliver the wizarding tale fans deserve.

Grade: C-