Over the course of 8 movies, the Harry Potter franchise grossed a whopping $7.7 Billion at the box office. To say the series was a success is an understatement, but that wasn’t to be the last we’d see from the Wizarding World on the big screen. Back in 2016, Warner Bro’s released Fantastic Beasts and Where to find them, the first film in a now announced 5 movie series. The franchise will be a spin-off and prequel to the Harry Potter films, produced and written by J.K. Rowling in her screenwriting debut. Where to Find Them was a solid opener, nothing overly special but certainly a strong first chapter which was beautifully done and charming in places.
Whilst the pinnacle of the franchise is still the sublime third entry The Prisoner of Azkaban, there has never really been a truly bad film within the series… until The Crimes of Grindelwald. Here we have a bloated, boring and uneventful sequel, a real mess of a movie and by far the worst to date within the Harry Potter universe. What is so infuriating is that the film has literally been made to simply introduce characters and plotlines for further instalments, meaning there is nothing here except mountains of exposition and minimal character development.
Following the events of the first movie, Hogwarts professor Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) must enlist the help of former star pupil Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) to take down Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) a dark, powerful and manipulative wizard who has recently escaped incarceration.
Despite his name being featured in the film’s title, Grindelwald (Depp) is not only barely in the picture but also rather dull. Depp is bland and uninteresting, lacking charisma or any sort of memorability. Although he’s saved from total disaster by a strong reveal late on, one in which he explains his motives for his actions against muggles (Non-Wizards). It’s a surprising development that shows another side to Grindelwald’s character.
Redmayne continues to be a likeable presence in the lead whilst Katherine Waterston is terribly underused. The star of the show is actually new recruit Jude Law. He may not have an overly big part to play (he’s non-existent in the second act) but he is a delight and steals every scene he is in, living up to the hype of playing the renowned character of Dumbledore.
However, it is the script that ultimately lets the film down, with Rowling trying to establish and progress far too many characters. Worst of all is that barely any of them are interesting, meaning you just won’t care enough about any of their stories. After being my favourite part of the first movie, Dan Fogler’s Jacob and his relationship with Alison Sudol’s pure-blood Queenie is wasted and depressing, lacking the heart which made them so special in the first place. It is one of numerous sub-plots which simply don’t work.
There is so little excitement throughout, with only a handful of action set-pieces and they’re basically all over before they’ve even began. Big moments lack the emotion and energy required, falling totally flat in the process. Emotion and energy are two traits which previous instalments have never suffered from. Thankfully, the production design is once again magnificent and the visual effects are as spellbinding as you expect from a film of this magnitude. The magic certainly hasn’t completely disappeared, with Newt’s one underwater beast and the adorable Niffler having particular stand out moments.
The first movie had some references to the Potter movies but overall was mostly its own thing. Here, the film is filled to the rim with Easter Eggs, references and characters for the Potter admirers and I felt they overdo it a little and most of them felt unnecessary. If you’re a big Potter fan, you’ll probably find the movie more tolerable than others simply because it’s so aggressively jam-packed with fan-service.
For the most part the film is too busy thinking ahead to actually think about the audiences’ needs now. I may look back on The Crimes of Grindelwald in years to come and see it as a solid entry in the franchise, one which does set up some key storylines going forward. But for now, it’s easily my most disappointing movie of the year.
Verdict: A sequel far more interested in introducing storylines and characters than providing thrills and excitement, the only crime Grindelwald commits here is taking your well-earned time and money.
Best Moment: The finale builds the only tension of the entire picture