“Crimes of Grindelwald” fails fans of the Wizarding World

Photo courtesy of Warner Brothers Studios

Will Patterson

“Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald” hit theaters on Nov. 16, making it the second sequel to the Harry Potter series.

“Crimes of Grindelwald” picks up after the events of “Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them” with Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) in captivity and Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) heading back to England. As implied by the movie’s title, Grindelwald obviously does more than rot in a jail cell.

“Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them” set an upbeat, exciting tone to the new trilogy. Colorful scenes, absurd characters and a menagerie of creatures set a stage previously unseen in the Harry Potter movies. This film didn’t concern itself with making obvious connections to the original movies. Rather, it let fans search for them while also showcasing another angle of the wizard world.

“Crimes of Grindelwald” takes a very different approach—and it doesn’t flow quite as well. The elaborate world building has vanished and has been replaced with a slew of new characters. Familiar family names and not-so-subtle nods to the Harry Potter series bog down the tempo. Those unfamiliar with previous Harry Potter films will be buffeted by a barrage of anticlimactic reveals.

Casting controversy aside—the decision to cast Johnny Depp as the film’s villain seems to be a mistake. While Depp’s performance wasn’t poor, it failed to add depth to the character for which the movie is named. Instead, audiences were offered a run-of-the-mill villain illustrated by a typical estranged Depp character.

Newcomer Jude Law as a young Albus Dumbledore isn’t bad, but it does present a predicament. Law has the impossible task of properly portraying a younger version of a beloved, established character. It seems unlikely that any performance would nail the personality and gusto to truly emulate Dumbledore.

There are almost always a few stars that really shine in any large-scale production. Unfortunately, “Crimes of Grindelwald” doesn’t really give the space for a spectacular performance. With that said, there is an obvious pool of talent waiting to be tapped into for the next film.

Despite its flaws, the film does deserve recognition for its striking imagery. The original Harry Potter movies underwent an increasingly impressive transformation as CGI technology advanced throughout the years. “Crimes of Grindelwald” takes that a step further. The magical critters that Scamander is so fond off are brilliantly imagined and executed on the silver screen.

As always, the creativity that is poured into these Wizarding World movies is unmatched in Hollywood. Magic settings have been done in so many different ways, but “Crimes of Grindelwald” manages to keep introducing fascinating aspects that still conform to the established universe.

At its core, Crimes of Grindelwald” is a movie that fails to “show, don’t tell.” It’s difficult to stay intrigued with characters that are stringing various monologues together between brief, magical engagements. The magic of a Wizarding World movie fades as enchantment is replaced with lengthy explanations, confusing plots and an ultimately unsatisfying conclusion.

The future of the “Fantastic Beasts” series hangs in the balance. It is entirely possible that the next film can stick the landing. “Crimes of Grindelwald” is so concerned with setting up the next film’s plot that it forgot its own. Moviegoers can only hope that this wasted potential pays off in the next chapter.