Have you watched the first Fantastic Beasts movie lately? You probably should if you're planning to see the follow-up, because even as someone who saw that movie, I felt pretty lost coming into The Crimes of Grindelwald.
As I recalled, when we last left the beastmaster himself, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), he and his friends—some wizards, some muggles, the treasure platypus—had discovered that Colin Farrell's character (whose name I forget) was actually the evil Grindelwald (Johnny Depp, an actor who can apparently beat up women and smuggle dogs into Australia with nary a professional consequence) and this was bad for … some reason.
We discover in the latest film that it's bad because Grindelwald is basically Voldemort 1-point-oh, and he's totally escaped wizard custody to start doing wizard crimes and make the wizard world better for wizards. To do this, he'll need help from this guy Credence (Ezra Miller), a non-muggle who is just now realizing his outrageously strong powers, and any number of other evil baddies. Newt, who amounts to a magical zookeeper, is somehow thrust into the fight once more, and he does the fantastic beast dance with some pretty OK CGI monsters while doing cute sidelong glances and being all adorable-akward with his haircut and everything.
Along the way we get pained connective threads to the overarching Harry Potter universe in the form of Voldemort's snake's origin tale (which feels pointlessly tacked on), a hint at young Dumbledore's sexuality as portrayed by Jude Law, and a little more baby murder than you'd probably expect. But we also get bored by too much crammed in, a confusing retelling of the past and one or two too many characters thrown in. JK Rowling herself penned the script, which definitely could have used a bit of polish, particularly for scene transitions that don't land well at best or are straight up mind-boggling at worst. Everything else is just melodrama.
Especially Depp, who is serviceable as Grindelwald, but also a rather blankly evil character whom we know is evil simply because we're told as much. Jude Law feels like nothing at all, and supporting performances from Dan Fogler, Kathryn Waterston and Zoë Kravitz mostly just slow things down. Thanks goodness for that treasure platypus, then—he's the real star of the show.
And of course the ending sets up a sequel, and of course it's fun to visit Hogwarts during the 1920s (shit, we've been hangin' with Mr. Potter for 20 years now), but dumb jokes and the realization that most magic spells in this world are about opening doors or starting fires make The Crimes of Grindelwald feel like a slog more often than not. Sorry, Potterheads—it's just not the same.
+Treasure platypus forever!
-Johnny Depp; all that other stupid stuff
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
Directed by David Yates
With Redmayne, Depp, Miller and Law
Regal, Violet Crown, PG-13, 134 min.