Movie Review: The Crimes of Grindelwald (Spoiler Free)


Director: David Yates
Writers: J. K. Rowling
Release: 2018


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.

3 Stars

27 thoughts on “Movie Review: The Crimes of Grindelwald (Spoiler Free)

  1. Grab the Lapels says:

    So, I think what your saying is you felt exactly how I felt when I saw the middle Lord of the Rings movie. And, like, I had to pause the DVD eleventy times so my husband, who has read the books, could explain to me what the hell was going on.


  2. Harker @ The Hermit Librarian says:

    Oh my the plot holes, the out of character acting, the blatant messing up of timelines…I couldn’t understand how either JK did this or how no one stood up and mentioned something to her. Is it that there’s no one checking on things like this? Like, does no one else check the script? Is that a thing that can happen? 😦

    I was sorely disappointed myself by certain characterizations that happened, particularly a pair of characters we met in NYC in the first film that were quite different in CoG. Their actions didn’t make a whole lot of sense, especially considering one’s abilities.

    Also…how are these all going to be Fantastic Beasts movies? If these were Wizarding World movies, that’s one thing, but to call them all Fantastic Beasts (insert subtitle here) feels like an odd choice.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Krysta says:

      Sometimes I get the sense that attaining a certain level of popularity means authors aren’t edited as much. Maybe they figured it is her world and she can do what she wants and people will still buy tickets?

      I had the same question!! Why is that character suddenly not using their abilities??

      I think it is just Fantastic Beasts because Newt is in the films and he has fantastic beasts? Not sure really how they tie in to the main Grindelwald plot, which seems to be more the focus of the franchise.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Saloni Desai says:

    I completely agree. I felt so disappointed by this entire film. I wanted so much to love this movie because of what Harry Potter means to me. It’s so sad to see a movie struggle the way The Crimes of Grindelwald did. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy elements, but I still left with an overwhelming sense of disappointment.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Krysta says:

      I’m hoping the next one will be better. Maybe lower ticket sales will make them rethink the franchise a bit? Though I am sure Rowling already has it all plotted out.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Saloni Desai says:

        I’m sure she has! I think it’s difficult to transition between mediums, and that’s probably why this one left something to be desired. She didn’t have time to build suspense and drop hints for the big reveal. Several people laughed in the theater out of shock when they found out about Credence. I was one of them.


  4. paperjasmine says:

    Great review and I completely agree, though I think perhaps you are even a little more forgiving than me! I left the theatre confused and disappointed after seeing this film as a hardcore HP fan since I was 11, and the more I’ve thought about the film and Jk Rowling’s decision to ignore her own timeline/plot etc the more annoyed and disappointed I’ve become!
    But I will still go and see the next one and hope it’s better because as you said, I do always love stepping back into the magical world. Hopefully next time it’s much more familiar to the one I know!
    Thanks for the review and putting to words many of my own feelings for the film 😊


  5. jenchaos76 says:

    This happens when an author decides to make artistic decisions that rival the truth of the series. It’s frustrating. I see this a lot when new authors step in and finish a series because the original author died.


  6. MoMo @ Remnants of Wit says:

    I was very disappointed by this movie. We barely saw any of Newt and co., and instead half the movie was Johnny Depp being edgy. I hated Johnny Depp’s Grindelwald and since we saw so much of him being EVIL™, that ruined the movie for me overall. I left the theatre thinking, “oh yeah, that was supposed to be in the Harry Potter wizarding world.” I’d completely forgotten! None of its characteristic charm was there. I did (mostly) like Jude Law’s Dumbledore, though.


    • Krysta says:

      I can appreciate trying to have a different feel so as not to repeat Harry Potter, but I do think the films need to retain some of the same magic if they want to appeal to the same audience. The best parts were the ones with Nest doing some whimsical magic or showing the beauty of his fantastic beasts. Grindelwald lazing about Paris is not as interesting.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. PerfectlyTolerable says:

    While watching the movie I didn’t realize how messed up the timeline has gotten, but it has made a lot of people, understandably, upset. I really enjoyed the movie, but I can see why a lot of people had issues with it! I’m sorry you didn’t like it better, but at least you agree the baby nifflers were adorable 😀


  8. saraletourneau says:

    I haven’t seen The Crimes of Grindelwald yet… and I don’t think I will. At least, for a while. Your review is in line with all the others I’ve read in terms of the plots twists, characters acting out of character, timeline / continuity issues, and overall poor / messy writing on J.K. Rowling’s part. And I just know these are all things I’d pick up on if I went into the film unawares. So I’m tempted to save myself the aggravation of spending $12 for a movie ticket and then coming out feeling disappointed in Rowling and as if I’d wasted my time and investment. :S


    • Krysta says:

      I think if you wait for it to come out on DVD you’re not missing much. I did that with the first Fantastic Beasts film–I waited and borrowed it from the library. Maybe I should have done the same for this one! I don’t think people usually give out major spoilers, either, so it’s generally safe to wait. I think the Fantastic Beast films just don’t have the same number of fans as the Harry Potter films, so I’ve never had anyone reveal a plot twist to me.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. marydrover says:

    At the end of the movie, I said, “Wait, what?” out loud, and the woman next to me turned and said, “I KNOW. This is my second time, and I’m still confused.”

    I was so disappointed by this, and I totally agree with your assessment of it. It really felt like they were trying to just do a Dumbledore movie, but had to stay within the Fantastic Beasts franchise, so threw in some creatures and weirdly out of character Newt just so that he was in it. My favorite parts were the scenes in the case, and of course the baby nifflers. Everything outside of that was just meh.


    • Krysta says:

      Oh my! That’s hilarious!

      Yes! I love the whimsical and magical parts where we saw Newt and his fantastic beasts. It kind of doesn’t make sense to me to pair that with a dark plotline reminiscent of a police procedural or something. And, anyway, Newt isn’t an Auror so why exactly does Dumbledore keep tapping him for these jobs? I don’t understand.


      • marydrover says:

        Exactly! We don’t have a lot to go on for backstory between Dumbledore and Newt, either, to give us any kind of reason why Newt’s this decade’s Harry, basically. I’d say hopefully they can turn it around, but three more movies sounds like a little much.


  10. Adam says:

    There definitely were some pretty strong McGuffin esk “this is important because it’s important” components. I felt like the relationship web between the different characters was needlessly cumbersome and tangled, and the revelation about Credence’s origins and past really felt excessively convoluted. The name dropping seemed like a kind of Easter egg hunt, “see how many you recognize”, and the overall plans on both sides felt very lacking and weak. About the only things that I did enjoy were the visuals and some of the music, particularly the two songs during the villain’s climax.


    • Krysta says:

      You pretty much covered it. I felt like the script wanted to be clever, no matter how much material had to be shoehorned in and how much of our prior knowledge we had to throw away. That isn’t what I expect from Rowling.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Adam says:

        Mmm. In some ways it seemed reminiscent of recent marvel movies, though the Easter egg phenomenon seemed to overshadow actual narrative. As you mentioned, more interested in setting up future stories than telling one of it’s own.


  11. theorangutanlibrarian says:

    Shame this had so many ridiculous plot twists and that it was such a muddle of a movie :/ I still want to see it, cos I enjoyed the last movie, especially the extension of the world building. Great review!


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