Although Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was not a particularly strong film, it marked a welcome return to the Wizarding World’s cinematic side of things. Following the end of the main series, Harry Potter as a brand seemed more or less in limbo until The Cursed Child rocked the theatrical world. Now, it’s been living through a renaissance unlike any other. With new movies and plays to dig into, the Wizard World is as alive as it’s ever been. Unfortunately, no revival gets out unscatched as The Crimes of Grindelwald so blatantly shows us.
The second in what is expected to be a five-film series, The Crimes of Grindelwald sees the titular wizard finally given life in the series. Although a good chunk of the movie is indeed quite decent with its fair share of qualities, this is a messy movie. While the first movie was rather dull for the most part, this second installment is downright bad more often than not. It is a movie that genuinely does not know what story it wants to tell, but understands it needs to set the foundation for the three films that will follow it. The Crimes of Grindelwald’s biggest crime is just how bad it is.
30 WORST: There Are Barely Any Fantastic Beasts
You would think that in a series titled Fantastic Beasts, the powers that be would have enough common sense to frontload their end products with the titular creatures, but that might genuinely be too much to ask of the modern Wizarding World. For whatever reason, The Crimes of Grindelwald is about done with the FB moniker.
Who needs beasts when you've got wizards?
Some fantastic beasts do indeed appear, but it is quite obvious that they only do so out of an attempt to keep the series’ namesake relevant. In terms of story, Rowling and the gang clearly no longer want to present a world filled with amazing creatures. We’re back to wizarding politics and the buffoons who inhabit them.
29 BEST: The Costuming
On one hand, there is a genuine complaint to be made of the film’s costuming. For starters, we are so far detached from JK Rowling’s original vision of the series where everyone wore robes and colorful clothing that this may as well be a different franchise. At the same time, the costuming is REALLY slick.
Not only do all the main characters look terrific with time period appropriate outfits with just enough flare to stand out, everyone has a clear enough visual identity where you can tell who is who just based off their clothing. That’s the power of good costuming. It may not match the original vision of the series, but the characters look great.
28 WORST: The Nagini Retcon
Retcons are an inevitability when it comes to any long-running series, literary or otherwise. Even the books had their own retcons through Horcruxes, a concept JK Rowling clearly did not come up with until near the series’ run. Naturally, retcons have extended their way here and… they aren’t so pretty.
Not every character needs to be, well, a character.
Where the Horcrux retcon is a net positive, the Nagini retcon is an actual nightmare come to life. All this time, Voldemort’s pet snake was a woman who Wormtail milked and Neville beheaded without a moment’s hesitation. It’s a morbid retcon that just puts a weird spin on Nagini’s character without saying anything meaningful.
27 BEST: David Yates Returns As Director
David Yates is far from the greatest director in the world, but he understands the series on a level that very few directors do. Having worked as the franchise’s sole director since Order of the Phoenix, Yates returning to direct the Fantastic Beasts series is absolutely a point in the second film’s favor.
Although his style does lend itself to a darker color scheme with more muted colors- perhaps an aesthetic not so well fitted for the Wizarding World- his presence ensures there is a consistency from film to film. The Crimes of Grindelwald isn’t just a spin-off, it is a direct continuation of the franchise you have all come to know and love.
26 WORST: The Plot Is Unfocused
The Crimes of Grindelwald is a film that neither knows or understands the story it wants and “needs” to tell, (we’ll circle back to that “needs” soon enough), so it simply meanders for two and a half hours before credits roll. With so much going on at once, the film comes off totally unfocused, spreading itself thin.
Need a longer movie? Just add pointless plots!
You have Newt’s plot which clashes with Dumbledore and Grindelwald’s plot which ultimately ends up sharing screen time with an out of nowhere LeStrange storyline. There is so much content packed into the film’s script and simply not enough time to tell each plotline thoroughly in a way where everything links together under the banner of a single narrative.
25 BEST: The Special Effects Are The Best They’ve Been
The series’ special effects have always looked truly great. You could watch the first movie today and still come out with a feeling impressed with how well the mere concept of magic came to life within the Wizard World. While the quality has dipped and risen, the special effects have only gotten better.
Naturally, this extends to the newest film in the franchise: The Crimes of Grindelwald. The special effects are absolutely outstanding. Every instance of magic is seamless, creating the sense that this is a real, livable world. From here on out, you can expect the effects will only get better with each film.
24 WORST: Not Enough Is Done With Grindelwald Or Dumbledore
In a film named after one of the most prominent characters in the entire series, you’d expect his move to, well, feature him prominently. While Grindelwald certainly plays a huge role, acting as the more or less antagonist of the movie, you’ll still leave the theater feeling like Grindelwald was criminally underutilized.
You know you have a problem when your title character barely matters.
Given how unfocused the final film is, Grindelwald ends up taking a hit in terms of screen time. Worse yet, we barely get a chance to see Dumbledore as well since the two effectively share a storyline. We never get to see either of these characters fully realize their narrative potential in the context of the film.
23 BEST: Outstanding Creature Designs
While there aren’t that many fantastic beasts to speak of, the few that do appear in the film look incredible. For all the film’s flaws, it is a visual spectacle in terms of design. Just seeing new creatures on screen gives the Wizarding World a breadth of depth it did not have previously. Every creature, every “fantastic beast,” widens the scope of the franchise. It almost makes you wish someone would direct a series of films about fantastic beasts. Ah well, some ideas are just too good, I suppose.
22 WORST: The Movie Was Not Written For Super Fans
If you aren’t a super fan of the series, chances are while you probably won’t fall in love with the film, you won’t actively dislike it either. You’ll appreciate its technical aspects, scoff at its awkward focus, and come away relatively pleased after a night at the cinema. If you’re a fan of the series? Well…
The less you know, the better.
Honestly, you may as well watch another movie. For whatever reason, this was a film designed specifically for non-fans. This means key details about the series’ lore are wrong, the tone does not match the rest of the series, and the events of the movie do not match up with any recorded info from the rest of the franchise.
21 BEST: Jude Law’s Dumbledore Is Incredible
For as flawed as the movie is on a structural level, it is hard to criticize it with too much fervor considering just how inexplicably good its other aspects are. Despite giving him nothing to do with the role, Jude Law absolutely knocks it out of the park as Dumbledore, giving the character even more depth.
Dumbledore is already a wildly complex character in the original series and Law’s portrayal really shows that idea in action. This is a man with his own demons. He isn’t the lovable old grandpa from the main series, he’s someone with his own motivations and goals that may not be totally great. With so little to do, Law’s performance is forced to exude nuance.
20 WORST: The McGonagall Plot Hole
Ever the fan favorite, bringing McGonagall into the action is a no-brainer. She is easily one of the best characters in the original series and her role as a professor was pivotal for both Harry’s growth as a character and the ever-growing scope of the series. Why not bring her into the Fantastic Beasts sub-series?
How can you teach if you haven't even been born?
For starters, because she wasn’t born yet by the time of this film. McGonagall should be negative eight years old, but she appears in the movie nonetheless. This also contradicts McGonagall’s own in-series mention that she started teaching at Hogwarts roughly three decades before Harry’s arrival. This movie takes place FAR earlier.
19 BEST: Grindelwald Is Legitimately Imposing
Although we don’t know much about Grindelwald from the just the main books, we do get the sense that he was quite the figure. He managed to play a large role in Dumbledore’s life and left a legacy that very few characters could realistically rival. Going into this film, Grindelwald needed to be portrayed correctly.
Whether it be a fluke or not, Grindelwald absolutely shines in every scene he’s in. He is manipulative, cruel, and larger than life. His very stature is intimidating and imposing, demanding the attention of anyone and everyone whenever he calls for it. If only the whole film were about him.
18 WORST: Most Of The Film Is Filler
What plagues The Crimes of Grindelwald worse than anything is the mere fact that very little actually matters in the context of the movie. JK Rowling stated that she wanted the Fantastic Beasts sub-series to last five films, but this second installment barely gives you an understanding of why.
It's hard to believe this film is over two hours.
Five movies is simply too much if the direct follow up to the originator is filled with material that simply does not amount to anything. This isn’t a matter of events acting as set up, the movie more or less does resolve. As a result, a good chunk honestly comes off feeling like it should have been cut for brevity.
17 BEST: The Base Plot Is Actually Fairly Compelling
The worst part of The Crimes of Grindelwald is that there is genuinely a captivating film underneath all the garbage. On a purely plot level, there is something worth experiencing here. Grindelwald is finally examined as a character and not a concept; Dumbledore has the chance to be ideologically challenged; and Newt is ever growing.
With some focus and trimming, Crimes of Grindelwald could have ended up a great piece of the Wizarding World mythos. In a sense, it is. Reading just a bare-bones explanation of the events of the film give it a certain charm that the movie simply could not capture. Maybe time will be kind to it.
16 WORST: Queenie Was Done A Disservice
In the first film, Queenie was a fundamental backbone of Newt’s adventure. While she was hardly the best character in the movie, she offered a comfortable presence and was likable enough where her role in the second movie could really only be beneficial. Sadly, the pattern dictates our natural expectations end up disappointed.
No good character goes unpunished.
Not a single character in the movie gets thrown a worse deal than Queenie. Not only does she betray the main cast after a petty squabble, the film ends with her actively helping Grindelwald commit even more “crimes.” The movie does a massive disservice to Queenie, taking her down a path that frankly makes little sense for her character.
15 BEST: Newt And Tina’s Relationship
Newt and Tina’s relationship is about what one might expect from a romantic coupling two movies into a five-movie franchise. They haven’t advanced all too much from the first film, but their dynamic is undeniably stronger. It’s just a familiar beat in a familiar structure. Familiarity isn’t inherently bad, though.
Where the relationship loses points for originality, it makes up for in execution. They simply have such a believable dynamic that is is hard not to find the two endearing. You want to see their relationship deepen even further. That’s the sign of good romantic writing, not originality for the sake of it.
14 WORST: It’s A Movie Written Like A Book
It’s worth noting that unlike the Harry Potter films which were scripted by writers adapting the source material, the Fantastic Beasts sub-series is explicitly written by JK Rowling. This is her legitimate script and a genuine prequel to the original series of books. Unfortunately, some issues arise.
Different mediums need to be handled differently.
JK Rowling does not know how to write a screenplay resulting in a movie that flows like a book with several sub-plots and not nearly enough time in the heads of the characters. Too much is left up to the imagination while the plot moves far too fast for its own good. The movie does not have a film’s flow.
13 BEST: Revisiting Hogwarts Is A Nostalgia Trip
For all the movie’s faults, it is a genuine nostalgia trip whenever Hogwarts is on screen. Whether you’re primarily a fan of the films or the books doesn’t matter, seeing Hogwarts yet again on the silver screen is a fantastic reminder of the magic of the series. Just the set alone is enough to evoke more than enough emotion.
It is a lingering presence that tells the audience that you are indeed experiencing a legitimate continuation of the Wizarding World. You may not love every minute of it, but the moments you do enjoy will linger in memory for as long as you can possibly remember. That’s the magic of Hogwarts.
12 WORST: Horrible Pacing
It perhaps goes without saying, but an unfocused film will undoubtedly end up with some bad pacing. After all, if a story isn’t focused well, it likely stems from pacing. The Crimes of Grindelwald simply does not know what to do with its time, dedicating so much film to subplots that ultimately don’t matter.
Even the scenes that do get focus move at a ridiculous pace with not nearly enough time to breathe. In a book, you read at your own pace. But a movie? You’re at the will of the director. With such a fundamentally flawed script, there’s little that can actually be lingered on for too long without flaring up even more issues.
11 BEST: Depp Plays A Surprisingly Good Grindelwald
Johnny Depp hasn’t had a particularly good media run as of late. It certainly doesn’t help that his performances have been of a generally lower quality for a few years now. With the revelation that he gets his lines fed as Jack Sparrow, it’s hard to see him as the juggernaut actor he once was.
Until you watch his performance as Grindelwald and realize that, despite it all, the man can clearly still act his heart out. Although Grindelwald does not get nearly enough time as he deserves, Depp absolutely steals the show in every scene he’s in, giving the character the aura he needs to loom over the Wizarding World.
10 WORST: The Carriage Chase
If you’re prone to seizures or simply do not do well with flashing lights, we strongly recommend you not go see The Crimes of Grindelwald in theaters by any means. The film effectively opens with a carriage chase scene that constantly cuts between angles, uses bright lights far more often than it needs to, and visually is incredibly difficult to follow.
Don't bother hurting your eyes.
It is a physically nauseating segment of the film to sit through and actually does far too little to benefit the movie as a whole. Either skip the movie entirely or simply wait for a home release where you can either dim your TV’s brightness or skip ahead to the actual meat of the movie.
9 BEST: Beautiful Scenery
For all the faults with the film’s pacing, no one can deny that the Wizarding World has yet again come alive beautifully. Although Yates’ directing naturally lends itself to a more muted color scheme, the film’s setpieces look downright excellent.
Not a single piece of scenery feels out of place or undercooked. Time and time again, the franchise is capable of pushing the idea of the Wizard World as a tangible, livable place, and The Crimes of Grindelwald is no exception. If anything, it’s one of the better showcases the series has seen.
8 WORST: Credence
Although Ezra Miller is a good actor, Credence has never been a particularly strong character. Even in the first film which didn’t really have too many outright bad parts gave us a fairly dull Credence. His role has been improved since then and… it honestly was not for the best.
What a waste of Ezra Miller.
More notably, the worst part about Credence is how it retrofits him into another role: Dumbledore’s brother. Yes, the big twist of The Crimes of Grindelwald is that Credence was actually Dumbledore’s long lost brother all along, Aurelius! It’s a legitimately awful twist that only serves to sully any goodwill Credence’s character might have had otherwise.
7 BEST: Hope That The Fantastic Beasts Franchise Can Be Salvaged
The Crimes of Grindelwald is not just a poorly structured movie, it might genuinely be the single worst entry in the Wizarding World franchise. Across all eight original films and its predecessor, there is very little the movie does right. That said, it does nonetheless leave the hope that the franchise can recover.
With Yates’ strong direction, the stellar technical aspects, and the actors all giving good to great performances, it really just comes down to JK Rowling getting her act together. This is a franchise crippled by its writing. With a tighter script, the next movie has a genuine chance at being quite good.
6 WORST: Newt Is A Side Character In His Own Series
You could rename the first film “Newt Scamander and the Fantastic Beasts” and it would honestly feel like a natural extension of the series. In the same way the main books were named after Harry Potter, Newt Scamander has enough relevance where this franchise could have been named after him.
Who needs a main character?
In hindsight, it’s perhaps good it wasn’t though as this second installment really does not care for him as the lead. Newt is effectively reduced to a side role as others characters dominate the screen time. He feels more like a bit player than the genuine protagonist who has to grow and change.
5 BEST: Newt’s Arc Is Solid Nonetheless
That said, Newt still has a great character arc in spite of his reduced role. He actually grows as a person by analyzing his faults and comes out the film a far stronger character. In fact, had the movie actually committed to keeping Newt in the lead role, there’s a good chance The Crimes of Grindelwald wouldn’t have wound up nearly as problematic as it did. When it comes down to it, Newt is the lead character. His arc is one written for a strong lead, now it’s just a matter of keeping the spotlight on him.
4 WORST: Grindelwald And Dumbledore’s Relationship Isn’t Fleshed Out
Even if you somehow missed JK Rowling outright confirming Dumbledore’s romantic preferences, chances are you still caught all the subtext pointing at Dumbledore’s relationship with Grindelwald amounting to more than just two bros paling around and indulging in the magical arts.
What should be the heart of the film goes unexamined.
Going into this film, it is only natural then that the script explore not just who these characters are independent of one another, but who they are to each other. The subtext is all there, after all, it’s just a matter of shining a light on it. Sadly, the movie has absolutely no interest in following through with this thread, ignoring it completely.
3 BEST: Theseus
Newt’s older brother, Theseus initially seems to play the role of the aloof older brother who, unfortunately, ends up betraying his younger brother in a move that creates a rift between the two in order to lend the two characters to more overt drama. First impressions are meaningless, though.
Theseus is far from the cliched trite the film props himself up as. He is a genuinely kind and caring older brother who just wants Newt to do well. He is a beacon of support not just in Newt’s life, but for the film as a whole, acting as a reminder that, yes, the inhabitants of the Wizarding World are just as normal as us.
2 WORST: Harry Potter At Its Darkest
In a series about a boy wizard, it’s only fitting that the story never get too dark. Although the original books had their heavier moments, particularly book 3 onwards, JK Rowling understood that her core audience likely did not want anything too overwhelmingly dark to digest.
The darkest the series has ever been.
Come The Crimes of Grindelwald, though, and that notion is thrown out the window. This is a movie where the title character directly shows the audience a concentration camp. Think on that one for a bit. It is so far and away darker than everything that came before it that some audience will certainly struggle to digest the film. That said...
1 BEST: Harry Potter At Its Darkest
On one hand, the series’ tone getting mangled makes for an awkward change of pace. On the other hand, isn’t a franchise supposed to grow and change with time? Perhaps The Crimes of Grindelwald was not the movie to bring Harry Potter to the darkest apex it could possibly reach, but it is a good start.
Moving forward, those in charge will be able to iron out the kinks, creating a story that is dark and thematically appropriate for the series. After all, the original books themselves got quite dark by the end. In many respects, this is a natural evolution of the Harry Potter franchise. Realism is often dark.