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film review

Johnny Depp as Gellert Grindelwald in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.Warner Bros.

  • Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
  • Directed by David Yates
  • Written by J.K. Rowling
  • Starring Eddie Redmayne, Johnny Depp and Jude Law
  • Classification PG 
  • 134 minutes

Rating:

1 out of 4 stars

“We cut out his tongue.” So says a prison guard at the beginning of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, referencing the harsh punishment of Johnny Depp’s title villain. Alas, that promise is soon revealed to be bogus, and so we’re left with about 132 minutes of having to listen to Depp sleepily enunciate his way through this new Harry Potter prequel, which is about as exciting as a trip to Hogwarts’s most neglected lavatory.

Both boring and offensively convoluted, The Crimes of Grindelwald is a naked attempt at squeezing every last galleon out of J.K. Rowling’s cinematic Potter universe – and the author has only herself to blame. While her screenplay for 2016′s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them could coast on franchise nostalgia and the fact that it had a loose connection to her “fictional encyclopedia” of the same name, The Crimes of Grindelwald is completely fresh material, but scripted as if Rowling was still writing a textbook.

Then again, textbooks are often helpful and filled with knowledge, and The Crimes of Grindelwald is anything but. Mostly, it’s about “magizoologist” Newt (a twee-to-a-T Eddie Redmayne) travelling across Europe to hunt down Grindelwald (Depp), a proto-Voldemort who spends most of his time concerned about the decor of his new hideout. But really, it’s an excuse for Rowling to trace the needlessly complicated family trees of characters we’ve never met before and don’t care about now that we have. It’s a genealogy obsession that looms so large in the film’s final, bewildering, frustrating half-hour that that you might be excused for thinking the author is in the pocket of Big Ancestry.

Directed by series regular David Yates (a long way from his work on The Order of the Phoenix), The Crimes of Grindelwald looks as dreadful as it feels, all washed out greys and dreary attics, with the nighttime action scenes barely discernible.

The entire endeavour is so crass, sloppy, and infuriating (especially the “twist” ending, although the film contains no real ending at all) that it treads close to zero-star, brand-killing territory. But then Jude Law pops up all-too-briefly as a younger, sexier version of Albus Dumbledore, and everything seems mostly right with the Potter-verse.

But the magic, it’s fleeting.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald opens Nov. 16.