Movie review: 'Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald'

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

The “Harry Potter” film series was generally a delight, but also reinforced some of my core beliefs about book-to-film adaptations.

The first movie was a fairly faithful, almost page-for-page adaptation of a book. It was also of reasonable length for a film.

The second movie attempted the same, but felt cramped. Then the filmmakers started making decisions about what was best for the screen, which included some painful omissions. From there, the series took off, launching some truly great films.

With the “Fantastic Beasts” spinoff, J.K. Rowling is now penning original stories for the screen set in the wizarding world. And two films in, we are starting to see both the good and the bad in this approach.

“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” takes place a few months after the events of “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.”

Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp), who is basically Wizard Hitler, has escaped prison and is amassing followers with a message that wizards take their rightful place in charge.

Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) must enlist the help of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) to stop him. “Do you know why I admire you, Newt?” Dumbledore says. “You do not seek power. You simply ask, ‘Is a thing ... right?'”

Hey, we could use more of that in the world, amirite?

“The Crimes of Grindelwald” unspools a complicated web of interconnecting characters in ways that Rowling has been magnificent at on the page. For fans who really just wish there were more books, this may be a blessing.

David Yates, who directed the final four Potter film, as well as the first “Fantastic Beasts,” is at the helm again, and this movie boasts similar effects that transport you to a world where you just accept magic is real.

In short, fans will be pleased.

But while there are moments of drama and twists worthy of a gasp or two, “Grindelwald” still feels like an appendix (the book kind, although this one also might need to be removed).

From the “who cares?” love triangles to some “who is that?” characters, the plot never feels particularly driving.

Some have compared it to George Lucas' “Star Wars” prequel trilogy, and I have to co-sign on that. It's pretty apt.

“Grindelwald” does seem to be setting up something pretty epic, and the next chapter could land this as a solid trilogy.

Spoiler alert: There are at least five “Fantastic Beasts” films planned.

Opens Thursday

2 stars out of 5

“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald”