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Rowling’s “The Crimes of Grindewald” lacks central thought. | Courtesy Wikipedia

In the movie titled after his own despi­cable actions, the dark wizard Grindelwald commits no truly evil action. In the fran­chise that’s sup­posed to deal with fan­tastic beasts, the beasts hardly see any screen time in the newest film of the Harry Potter uni­verse, “The Crimes of Grindelwald.” 

The film starts in 1927 with the attempted transfer of Grindelwald from maximum security prison in New York to Europe. Grindelwald escapes and the film follows Newt and friends as they galavant through London and Paris in search of Grindelwald and the obscurial, Cre­dence. Fan-favorite char­acters are back including Jacob Kowalski and the Gold­stein sisters. A few new char­acters appear in this installment as well with Jude Law as a younger Dum­b­ledore and Zoё Kravitz as Leta Lestrange, Newt’s best friend from his school years at Hog­warts. Grindelwald, played by Johnny Depp, is given a more central role in the film.

Simply put, “The Crimes of Grindelwald” is a mess. While the ani­mation and special effects are stunning, there is no central plot. Instead, “Crimes” con­sists of a web of plot lines, none that are obvi­ously nec­essary to the film. Every film in the Harry Potter series has had a purpose, some­thing the main char­acters had to accom­plish come hell or high water. Crimes, however, has no explicit goal. Is the goal to defeat Grindelwald? Is it to kill Cre­dence or save Cre­dence? Is it to find Credence’s her­itage? Beats me.

The first rule of film­making is: don’t waste the audience’s time. J.K. Rowling, however, doesn’t seem to have caught that memo. She spends valuable screen time — which could be spent devel­oping the plot — on arbi­trary segways that add little value to the film. The film explores Newt’s rela­tionship with his brother’s fiancée, Leta Lestrange. Leta was in love with Newt while they were both at Hog­warts, or so I thought. According to Wikipedia, Newt was in love with Leta. Go figure. Rowling obvi­ously wants the audience to care about the rela­tionship, but, seeing as I can’t tell who actually had feelings for whom, I don’t.

“The Crimes of Grindelwald” isn’t all bad. A few stand-out per­for­mances hold the movie together. Jude Law’s young Dum­b­ledore is a delight. Some scenes show Dum­b­ledore teaching stu­dents Defense Against the Dark Arts. In the few short scenes, the viewer gets of a glimpse of just how pow­erful and wise Albus Dum­b­ledore is, even in his younger years. The inter­ac­tions between Dum­b­ledore and his stu­dents, both past and present, add depth and interest to a char­acter so familiar to Harry Potter fans.

Eddie Red­mayne plays Newt’s adorable, awkward manner to a T. It’s com­pletely believable and Red­mayne carries the film. The bonds that Newt shares with his crea­tures adds a depth and charm to an oth­erwise stagnant script. A few favorites from the first movie are back in this installment including the thieving Niffler and mis­chievous Bowtruckle. Little time is spent on the actual crea­tures, however. There’s some inter­esting new crea­tures and incredible CGI, but none of the animals are really central to the plot. They’re the best part of the film but hardly see any screen time.

“The Crimes of Grindelwald” is a CGI trip from start to finish. It sure is beau­tiful but the film is unor­ga­nized. In the slightly para­phrased words of Cher in Clueless, “Crimes” is a “full-on Monet.” From far away it’s okay, but look a little closer and it’s quite the mess.