For a very long film, CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD has a lot of characters with very few lines, and even less to do. There's the troubling casting of a pretty Asian woman as a mysterious but almost mute Nagini. There's Ezra Miller (WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN) as the troubled, mysterious but almost mute Credence. Even the lead character, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) says little except in a cryptically shy mumble, his eyes shyly averted from his interlocutor's face and yet somehow aimed at their boobs.
For a very long film, CRIMES OF GRINDEWALD also seems rather rushed and haphazard. Scenes end in a jarring manner, mashed up against the next one. There's a feeling that things are happening in between that have been left on the editors floor. Things that would help us understand what the frack is going on. It's been quite some time since I've had to google the ending of a film to figure out what just happened, but I had to with this film on two counts!
So what's actually going on? There's a powerfully magically destructive kid called Credence. He may be able to take out Dumbledore (Jude Law). Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) is a kind of fascist anti-muggle bastard who's escaped prison and now wants to manipulate Credence into helping him take out Dumbledore. It's not clear why Grindelwald can't go after Dumbledore directly. But maybe it's for the same reason that Dumbledore has to use his proxy - Scamander - to go after Grindelwald - because the two have a blood oath not to attack each other. Apparently this is because they used to be gay lovers. I know this because of the interwebs, rather than from anything the film might helpfully tell me.
What the movie actually consists of is a bunch of different characters wandering around Paris trying to find each other. This is all very dull. What makes the movie worth watching are two things - first the absolutely ravishing costume and production design evoking an inter-war Paris - and the occasional moments of emotional impact - mostly revolving around the character of Leta Lestrange (Zoe Kravitz.) Leta is, like Credence, filled with self-hate and conflict. She's an old school friend of Newt, engaged to his elder brother, anxious about some childhood guilt, and flirting with joining Grindelwald. By contrast, the less I had to watch Redmayne's Scamander - a bag of cliched tics and mumbles - the better. And his purported love interest - played by Katherine Waterston - is a charisma vacuum. Dan Fogler is far more engaging as the muggle comedy sidekick but is criminally underused. And as for his lover, Tina Goldstein (Alison Sudol channelling Marilyn's breathy high-pitched voice), it's not clear why she would react to not being allowed to marry a muggle by following a fascist who wants to enslave muggles.
Not much of this movie makes sense.
FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD is rated PG-13 and has a running time of 134 minutes. It is available to rent and own.