Two years on from Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, the Harry Potter spin-off returns. Set in 1920s Paris, Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) escapes custody and is planning an uprising of Pure Blood wizards intent on overthrowing those loser muggles. To stop him, Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) enlists Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) as an unimaginable war brews.
The first film was a fun trip back into the world of one of the most successful franchises of all time. This time, the connection with Newt and his new friends gets lost amid a deluge of plot, with enough parallel storylines to fill an entire franchise.
In addition to building Grindelwald as a pseudo-fascist overlord, Newt darts around Paris dealing with old flames, secret alliances, and, of course, no end of fantastic beasts. There’s just too much going on, which may not be an issue for die-hard fans of the original books, but is exhausting for non-devotees, who will quickly become lost amid the frequent twists and turns.
On the plus side, it looks gorgeous, with the locales and action scenes eliciting a sense of wonder. And everyone involved gives it their all: Redmayne is every bit the star you expect him to be, and he’s memorably matched by Law, who slides effortlessly into a famous role. As for Depp, his Grindelwald has some of the flamboyance of the actor in his heyday, but he’s still more pantomime villain than Prince of Darkness.
The Crimes of Grindelwald represents the best and worst of big budget moviemaking. Visual wizardry makes Rowling’s universe bigger and brighter, but it spends so long preparing for future instalments that it often forgets to be enjoyable in the moment.