Despite feeling bloated by too many storylines and having some obvious flaws in its writing, The Crimes of Grindelwald eventually finds its footing thanks to some strong performances and a committed direction from David Yates.
When Grindelwald escapes from prison, Albus Dumbledore enlists former student Newt Scamander to stop him from his plan to make pure-blood wizards rule the world. Meanwhile, as Credence is searched, he seeks to find his true identity.
Following the mildly successful first installment of this prequel franchise set in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, JK Rowling made the bold decision of amping up the stakes with this film, introducing an undeniably better storyline this time around. However, with that came a severe tonal change that in my opinion ultimately hurt this film. The charm, often funny quips and overall fun adventure that was felt throughout the last one is definitely missing this time around, with Rowling opting to go in a much darker direction. While this has worked before (just ask Star Wars or Batman), Rowling never commits to a single vision, and instead introduces an engaging story that unfortunately wastes the characters we fell in love with in the first place.
While Newt is still without a doubt the lead, we often see him sidelined to make way for uninteresting or irrelevant characters. For instance, Rowling chooses to pivot into an overlong flashback in Hogwarts that, although undeniably sweet and charming, is in the end just a reminder of better times for this franchise, and is never felt very relevant to the overall film aside from the nostalgia factor of the Harry Potter films. Instead of focusing on our main team of lovable heroes that are supposed to be our new leads, she lingers on other characters too much that never really go anywhere.
Jude Law’s Dumbledore, a huge selling point for this film, is criminally underutilized. Johnny Depp’s performance as Grindelwald is commendable, but again, he never has enough screen time to charm, and his presence is never as haunting as the filmmakers wish it was. Ezra Miller’s Credence plays a pivotal role in this film, but unfortunately, Miller never seems to capture the magic of what made his performance so good last time around and is not at all helped by a nonsensical twist that Rowling decides to add in the last minute.
With the bad out of the way, let’s get to the positives. David Yates, who directs once again after helming every single film of this franchise since ‘The Order of the Phoenix’, shows a definite evolution as a filmmaker with this film, delivering the best visuals for the Wizarding World since perhaps Alfonso Cuarón had a hand in it so many years ago. His delicate and elegant choices have never been more apparent, and he has to be credited for making the movie seem very epic, especially in the opening scene.
Despite some huge yet easy-to-fix mistakes made by JK Rowling in the script department, the characters continue to be as charming as always, and she has to be credited for introducing a story that, while sometimes very convoluted, is still very engrossing.