I really can’t decide what I think of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. The first Fantastic Beasts was a contrived story held up by good and likeable actors, fun fantastic beasts, and a return to the Wizarding World. Objectively, it’s a solidly average movie. But coming from the perspective of a Potterhead, it’s a good story that expands this amazing lore. This still doesn’t help me know where to land on its sequel.
Crimes of Grindelwald moves away from the fantastic beasts and the sort of cheesy quality of the first movie and acts as a dark prequel to the Harry Potter movies. And that is exactly what makes it difficult for me to give any exact thoughts on the movie.
On one hand, the Wizarding World is starting to get a Star Wars feel to it, in that these Fantastic Beasts movies are reminding me of the prequels. It is giving extra information and character backgrounds that aren’t really needed. But on the other hand, I love learning more and more about this world. So much is being filled in about this murky time period. There are so many different perspectives about what happened when Dumbledore was young that we never really know the exact details of what happened. It’s awesome to get some clear ideas about what happened.
With all this being said, the movie itself takes a fairly straightforward path. There are about four different groups of people who are trying to find Credence for different reasons. As we follow their stories, we just get lots of exposition regarding the magical world. For non-Potterheads, it will no doubt get exhausting. But for someone who wants to eat up every new bit of information being provided, it will be great.
Some of this new information comes from Jude Law’s young Dumbledore, who, for me, captures the spirit of the character better than Richard Harris or Michael Gambon did. From the way he talks, you can tell he is still conflicted and struggling as a character, but he has that deep and profound wisdom that the character is known for. I was convinced that he was my favorite Dumbledore after his very first scene.
As for his adversary/former lover, Johnny Depp is surprisingly good as the titular character. He really doesn’t have a ton to work with this time around (I’m sure he will going forward as he interacts more with Dumbledore), but he is muted, calculating, and evil. The character is not straightforward evil, and I’m actually excited to see where it goes from here.
To briefly mention the filmmaking, the cinematography and editing is surprisingly hit or miss. I’ve always thought the cinematography in the later Harry Potter movies was very good. It was interesting and it showed off this world in a unique way. This movie has some of that, but it has some really confusing shots at times. It had me wondering what the meaning behind them was, but it just seemed like they were poorly done and not good artistic choices.
Overall, though, The Crimes of Grindelwald probably won’t blow anyone away because of how great of a Harry Potter movie it is. But it’s serviceable and expands the lore satisfyingly (for the most part…). It is by no means terrible, and it certainly has kept my attention for the series going forward.