Director: David Yates
Writers: J. K. Rowling
As Grindelwald rallies his supporters, Dumbledore contacts magizoologist Newt Scamander to track him down. Meanwhile, Tina is on the trail of an Obscurial, hoping to find him before another Ministry employee eliminates him.
Note: This review generally mentions the overall plot of The Crimes of Grindelwald, but does not reveal the content of any major plot twists. If you prefer to view the film knowing absolutely nothing, you may want to return to read this review later.
The Crimes of Grindelwald promises an exciting expansion to the Wizarding World as viewers travel with the characters to 1920s Paris. However, despite a strong cast and a host of adorable baby nifflers, the film ultimately fails to captivate. More than anything, it feels like an overly complicated middle installment cobbled together with over-the-top plot twists and familiar names shoehorned in to please viewers. I left the theatre feeling a little like J. K. Rowling has lost some of her magic.
The Crimes of Grindelwald loses a lot of enchantment simply because it is difficult to follow. Throughout the film, I frequently found myself doing a mental check to ensure that I was still following the plot and knew who (most of) the characters were. A totally immersive experience was impossible when I kept having to leave the Wizarding World to recap the action to myself. Furthermore, as the film progressed, I became increasingly aware of just how silly all the complicated maneuvering is. Though Grindelwald is supposed to be a powerful wizard and a terrifying villain, he spends his days lazing about in Paris seeking to win a teenage Obscurial to his side. Everyone else, instead of trying to locate Grindelwald or stop him, is also chasing the Obscurial. The entire film is about a bunch of people trying to find a boy when they are not even sure who he is or why or if he might be important. I spent a good deal of the film feeling baffled by this and wondering when (or if) the point would ever become clear.
Of course, the real reason for spending an entire film chasing a teenage boy instead of tracking down Grindelwald seems to be that we need material for three more films. Perhaps even material enough to get from the 1920s to the 1940s, which is when Grindelwald, according to Rowling’s earlier information, was supposed to be at his height. (Unless, of course, Rowling is choosing to ignore her own timelines–a possibility fans have been considering due to various revelations in this film.). The result is that The Crimes of Grindelwald never feels like a high-stakes film; it is simply a middle film setting up future possibilities.
The real let-down for me, however, is the inclusion of a number of quite silly plot twists. Characters act out of character. Background stories are so convoluted and far-fetched they defy belief. New revelations, apparently added just to shock and surprise viewers, contradict what we already know about the Wizarding World. In short, the film simply is not well-written–a real surprise from a writer whom I have always admired for her detailed worldbuilding and carefully-placed foreshadowing.
The Crimes of Grindelwald will appeal to hardcore Harry Potter fans longing to learn more about the Wizarding World. It is hard not to love the film a little, despite its flaws, simply because we get to return to a world we love. However, I cannot deny that The Crimes of Grindelwald is rather a muddle of a movie.