The Harry Potter franchise is a little tough to get into at this point, so if you’re not already onboard, this is definitely not the place to hop on. With eight entries in the original Harry Potter series and then a prequel to this film, Crimes of Grindelwald is both a prequel and a sequel and carries a lot of baggage with it.
In the last film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, we were introduced to Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), an introverted wizard who finds comfort with exotic beasts moreso than other people. He befriended a human named Jacob (Dan Fogler) and two sisters Tina and Queenie (Katherine Waterston and Alison Sudol). There was also a mysterious yet powerful wizard named Credence (Ezra Miller) who is trying to figure out who he really is. At the end of the first film, we discover that evil wizard Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) is really behind some of these nefarious schemes.
In this new movie, we’re introduced to a young Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) who has a past with Grindelwald. Dumbledore recruits Scamander to try to stop Grindelwald’s plans.
We also have Zoe Kravitz, Callum Turner, and Claudia Kim.
This is a film with a very focused demographic and it relies on your extensive knowledge of the Harry Potterverse. If you’re a fan, this should be everything you want. It’s got plenty of fantastic creatures and explores some new corners of the wizarding world. The monsters are all varied and vibrant and interesting, resulting in some spectacular action sequences.
In terms of casting, it’s a little hit or miss, but the new addition of Jude Law is fantastic. He’s not in the film as much as you might expect, but he breathes new life into this franchise whenever he’s on-screen.
What doesn’t work?
This is going to be a divisive film, as some people will absolutely love the flair and color and the excitement of it all. However, after each of these “wow” moments I found myself saying “Wait, what?” a few more times than I would’ve liked. The story is all over the place. I kind of wish that the Fantastic Beasts series had veered off from the original films, instead of charging right into them, which is what’s happening. Because we’re leading right up to the events of the Harry Potter films, these movies have a unique problem of trying to be true to continuity and somehow also be mysterious and suspenseful. This means the story takes some sharp twists and turns that might shock you, but maybe leave a bad taste in your mouth later.
There’s also a problem of having a bloated cast. We were introduced to a whole new cast in the prior movie, and here we’re introduced to a whole bunch more. Almost none of these characters get any sort of development as they’re hurriedly rushed from plot point to plot point. Our lead Newt gets the shortest end of the stick, serving really just to move the plot. Eddie Redmayne is an incredible actor and he’s not utilized at all here.
The other problem is Ezra Miller, who was the weakest link in the first film as well. I’m not quite sure what he’s trying to do in this role and his character is both intentionally and unintentionally confusing. I don’t know if I was missing some pieces of information but his whole character makes zero sense to me.
Johnny Depp as Grindelwald also seems uninspired. Other than “Wizards must rule!”, we get no insight into why he’s evil or what he’s trying to do. You never feel threatened by him. He’s just around.
I was bummed out by Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. I’m a fan, I’ve read every book and seen every movie, yet I still was thrown off by the twists and turns here. They’re trying too hard to surprise fans that the plot becomes incomprehensible at times. The casting choices are hit or miss, combined with a lack of development for almost any character. It is a fun time, though, and it’s full of action and interesting monsters, and if you’re able to wrap your head around the plot, you might have a good time here.