The second sequel in the fledgling spinoff follows a familiar pattern, but too many characters and too many storylines rob it of its most enduring charms
Even magic takes a little bit of planning, and in David Yates' "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald," both are in short supply. In it second outing, the cracks are starting to show in J.K. Rowling's much-hyped followup series to "Harry Potter," a franchise that is at the mercy of slapdash planning (these films are cobbled together from various pieces of "Wizarding World" material, not single novels) and the kind of higher-up decree that promised five films (five!) before the first one hit theaters. It's a lot of time to fill, and while the second film in the franchise nudges its narrative forward, it's at the expense of a bloated, unfocused screenplay.
Mostly, "The Crimes of Grindelwald" is hampered by the unwieldy meshing together of disparate plots that could service their own films (some of them surely better than others). At the center (when he's not been shunted aside by all those competing narratives), there's ostensible franchise star Eddie Redmayne as nervous magizoologist Newt Scamander. Newt's ditzy charm grounded the first film; and when he's allowed to lead this second story, it's as whimsical and good-hearted as any in the franchise.
It's all the other subplots that damage that notion, from a charisma-free Johnny Depp taking over the role of evil Wizard Gellert Grindelwald to a convoluted section all about the family tree of Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller). Portions involving a young Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) can't reach their full potential; they're consistently cut short to zing back to yet another plotline (and that's without diving into all the subplots about Newt's brother, his ex-girlfriend, his beloved New York friends, and Credence's companion Nagini). All this convolution promises to converge during Grindelwald's coming-out party, a fear-filled rally that is as timely as it is unsettling. Before that, Yates and Rowling must bring together a motley crew of wizards and muggles both good and bad.
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