Crimes of Grindelwald: a beauty or a beast of a film?


Photo credit: Kaitlyn Curry

Is it a crime to enjoy the newest installment in the Harry Potter franchise, “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald”?

This question may be on your mind, moviegoer, if you’ve already made it to see the film. With a 40 percent critics’ score on Rotten Tomatoes and Potterheads around the globe left with mixed feelings after many a new introduction and revelation, the general response to this sequel has been significantly more varied than that of the first “Fantastic Beasts” film.

It almost seems as if the Wizarding World has found itself sharing the same destiny as the “Star Wars” franchise did with it’s prequels: both critics and audiences don’t know what to make of these new chapters.

This sequel is plot-driven to an almost excessive point, packed full of writer J. K. Rowling’s (literal) magic tricks. As a long-time fan of all things Harry Potter, I found enjoyment in seeing more of the Wizarding World. Although I was left feeling overwhelmed and unsatisfied by some of the more convoluted story developments, this all felt like the natural symptoms of second-movie syndrome: it seemed as if the film’s reason for existing was to set up for the rest of the series. But I can’t say I had higher expectations of the film beyond this purpose, and I was thrilled to see more from these characters.

I’m convinced that this is a movie made for the fans. If you don’t recognize or invest much care in the complicated relationship between Albus Dumbledore and Gellert Grindelwald or Leta Lestrange’s family lore, I’m sorry to say that J.K. may have left you somewhat in the dark. Many of the film’s early scenes mostly focus on tiring exposition, with the action set on bringing all the moving pieces together for the continuation of the series. Still, these new plot elements remain intriguing, both in their service to this film’s plot and in setting up installments to follow.

In the way of recommending the film to viewers who are unfamiliar with previous chapters in the series or general Potter lore, I am confident that they can at least have a fun time indulging in the performances, design aspects and overall spectacle of “Crimes of Grindelwald.”

Eddie Redmayne once again brought an endearing character to life in his performance as protagonist Newt Scamander and Jude Law as a young Albus Dumbledore was sympathetic while maintaining the character’s mystique. Charming supporting characters introduced in the first film, including witch sisters Tina and Queenie Goldstein and “no-maj” Jacob Kowalski, played by Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol and Dan Fogler, respectively, were an absolute delight to see again. I was relieved to find that my fears of Johnny Depp hamming it up as Gellert Grindelwald were not realized: he gave a convincingly sinister performance.

Elements of the film’s technical aspects and design — including the 1920s-era costuming and makeup — were dazzling, apart from some puzzling cinematography choices. As for the aforementioned fantastic beasts, I understand Newt’s obsession with these CGI critters; so very cute, even if their plot purpose is minimal at this point in the series.

While “Crimes of Grindelwald” had it’s confounding aspects, it still brought exciting twists and turns to a fictional world and characters that are easy to love. J. K. Rowling and director David Yates have conjured up an exciting story with much left to still be discovered, and I’ll certainly be obsessing over this film’s revelations until “Fantastic Beasts 3” hits theaters.