The Fantastic Beasts trilogy, a series of prequels in the Harry Potter universe, stumbles a bit in its second installment, The Crimes of Grindelwald (screenplay by Potter author J.K. Rowling).
The evil wizard Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) is trying to marshal his forces to rebel against the Ministry of Magic. He is targeting the powerful young wizard Credence (Ezra Miller) from the first film. Meanwhile, the bookish Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is enlisted by Dumbledore (Jude Law) to help stop Grindelwald.
Even at its worst, Grindelwald is serviceable, but it is a little too cluttered. There’s a subplot involving a love triangle between Scamander and his brother and another wizard (Zoe Kravitz). It doesn’t really add much to the story, and Redmayne does not have the chemistry with Kravitz that he does with Katherine Waterston. Much of the charm of the original Fantastic Beasts film was not the plotting, but the interplay between the four leads (Redmayne, Waterston, the schlubby Dan Fogler and Allison Sudol as Waterston’s sweet but spacey sister). Here, those characters are separated for long stretches and the film suffers for it.
Grindelwald does a pretty good job of making viewers understand why otherwise decent wizards might get swept up by Depp’s rhetoric, and Depp makes for a believably charismatic villain.
There is probably enough here to please hardcore Potter fans, but it is unlikely to linger in the memory long after viewing.