‘ The Crimes of Grindelwald’ can be likened to Newt Scamander’s magical briefcase, but instead of miraculously bustling with all manner of monsters from the wizarding world, this film is bursting with a mess of overly-convoluted plots and subplots that can be difficult to follow. The main crux hovers over Ezra Miller’s Credence Barebone, the young, mopey wizard from ‘Where to Find Them’ (2016). Credence spends the duration of this film trying to track down his birth mother while he himself is being sought out by the notorious dark wizard and recent prison escapee Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp), who wants to recruit the lost soul for his coming war on the non-wizarding world. Not typically the type to stand idly by during a wizarding holocaust, a younger Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) recruits Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) to reach Credence before Grindelwald.
At Newt’s side once again is the schlubby but lovable Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) and the always-working Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston). Additionally, ‘Harry Potter’ author and ‘Fantastic Beasts’ screenwriter J.K. Rowling introduces a roster of new wizards with half-baked backstories, including Newt’s brother Theseus (Callum Turner) as well as the mysterious Leta Lestrange (Zoe Kravitz). Rowling also takes the opportunity to haphazardly pile on a host of frustratingly muddled romances that only distract from the overall story.
‘Grindelwald’ is so unnecessarily dense that I felt the constant need to reference a Wizarding World encyclopedia of some kind just to help keep track of all the words I didn’t know as a casual fan of the property, characters who weren’t well established, and spells that weren’t explained.
Stylistically ‘Grindelwald’ is just as dark and drab as its narrative parallels to Hitler and the rise of the Nazi regime. Colors are muted and the overall pallet feels cold and layered over with a dull gray-scale filter. It’s an aesthetic choice seemingly at odds in a series founded in the wonderment of magic and imagination.
As if the series needed another parallel to Star Wars, Director David Yates has officially ushered in the poor prequel phase of ‘Harry Potter.’