The Johnny Depp Archive

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018)

Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Johnny Depp, Jude Law, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, ZoŽ Kravitz, Callum Turner, Ezra Miller, Alison Sudol, Claudia Kim

Directed by: David Yates

Rating: 1 2 and a half

So in bad ass outlaw biker show Sons of Anarchy (stay with me on this one, okay?) in order to achieve something they require, characters first have to carry out some crazy task on behalf of someone else, a high octane wild goose chase escapade which nicely fills the gap between the second and fourth advert breaks. Ian and I call these plot interludes, necessary to advance the story but in themselves irrelevant, the 'high jinx'.

Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Now my problem (one of my problems, anyway) with Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is that it's almost all high jinx. Like Crystal Maze contestants embarking on a series of escape room challenges (or indeed bikers trying to take out some white supremacists in order to boost some guns), our gallant band of characters dash from quest to more dangerous quest in an ever-escalating explosion of exquisite CGI pyrotechnics. All of which would be okay if the pay off actually made sense, but the big reveal we finally reach at the end of a very long Sunday afternoon turns out to concern another character we've never even met before and about whom we care not one jot, followed by another twist that undermines the entire Harry Potter canon (in my opinion anyway). But hey, high jinx galore assured for episode 3!

Of course, as we've come to expect from the Potterverse, it's all wonderfully detailed and elaborate and glamorous and (if you're 12) possibly a bit scary as well, but, as we've also come to expect, it's also migraine-inducingly complicated – and yet, like those bits in Lord of the Rings where they read out genealogies and you think: 'Why?', at the same time the basic storyline is so simple it renders most of the action completely pointless.

Johnny Depp as Grindelwald in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

And of course (again) there are some splendid monsters – but then again there have to be because they're in the title. But then again so are 'the crimes of Grindelwald' and these are oddly lacking. After a breathtakingly exciting escape sequence before the titles even roll, our big bad villain kinda does nothing for most of the movie except get a mad haircut and pose around in a cravat. But to be fair, the finale sees Johnny Depp mining his finest resources of charisma and ham, and at least something's actually happening at last.

Meanwhile, all the other characters (and there are now A LOT of characters, far more than you could keep up with on Facebook) are busy reciting endless backstory and waving their wands and travelling around very quickly and all that malarkey, so that the characters we actually care about (Newt, Jacob and Queenie – is it just me or is Tina a bit of a bore?) get swamped by all the characters we don't. It's like when a new family moves into the Square and we're suddenly expected to be interested in their mysterious Muggle past when all we really want to do is sit in the Vic with Dot and talk about nifflers, to mix metaphors somewhat.

Jude Law as Albus Dumbledore in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Don't get me wrong, everyone is certainly trying their best: Eddie Redmayne is still the awkward, recalcitrant, socially inept hero we introverts have been waiting for all our lives and Jude Law is great as young gay Dumbledore, but he barely gets a look in really.

The good points of Grindelwald? It looks amazing, the creatures are lovely and it features some solid set pieces, plus I just love Eddie Redmayne as Newt. The crimes? It's over-long, overly-complex, overly stuffed with characters and as for the script, let's just say that at one point a strongly-accented extra announces that 'this is the French Ministry of Magic' and leave it at that. Definitely the Back to the Future Two of the franchise so far: all exposition and very little pay off. Mischief unmanaged...

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