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Grindelwald’s biggest crime? An unfocused plot

Johnny+Depp+in+the+film+%E2%80%9CThe+Crimes+of+Grindelwald.%E2%80%9D+In+the+film%2C+Depp+sports+spiked+bleached+blond+hair+and+eyes+of+two+different+colors%2C+giving+him+a+ghostly+appearance.+
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Grindelwald’s biggest crime? An unfocused plot

Johnny Depp in the film “The Crimes of Grindelwald.” In the film, Depp sports spiked bleached blond hair and eyes of two different colors, giving him a ghostly appearance.

Johnny Depp in the film “The Crimes of Grindelwald.” In the film, Depp sports spiked bleached blond hair and eyes of two different colors, giving him a ghostly appearance.

WARNER BROS.

Johnny Depp in the film “The Crimes of Grindelwald.” In the film, Depp sports spiked bleached blond hair and eyes of two different colors, giving him a ghostly appearance.

WARNER BROS.

WARNER BROS.

Johnny Depp in the film “The Crimes of Grindelwald.” In the film, Depp sports spiked bleached blond hair and eyes of two different colors, giving him a ghostly appearance.

Sean Bull, Staff Writer

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This spoiler-free review has to start with a sentence I never thought I’d say: I owe Johnny Depp an apology.

In the first “Fantastic Beasts,” Colin Farrell’s duplicitous American auror, Percival Greaves, was one of my favorite performances. The eventual reveal that Greaves was working against the interest of the film’s heroes was telegraphed from the first scene onward, but Farrell imbued him with such humanity and charisma that his actions never felt like evil for evil’s sake.

As it became obvious that Greaves was actually the wizarding world’s big bad, Gellert Grindelwald, in disguise, it also became apparent how this wizard-Hitler had swayed so many to his genocidal cause. He didn’t rule through fear like Lord Voldemort, he instead appeared rational, a man of the magical people. That’s the kind of nuance I’d like to see in a villain slated to carry five movies. Imagine my disappointment when, at the end of the movie, the disguise of Colin Farrell melted away to reveal Johnny Depp, sneering from under his latest iteration of creepy pale makeup. With the high bar Farrel set, I was sure the rest of the series would suffer from the swap of antagonists. Thankfully, I was dead wrong.

Depp’s performance is one of the best in the movie. Despite never quite deciding on an accent for his (Austrian?) wizard, his character is consistent, and builds on Farrell’s level-headed conniving. Pair that with an equally great performance from Jude Law, and it’s easy to see how a young Albus Dumbledore once was caught up in Grindelwald’s (figurative) spell.

Unfortunately, there’s little time for the tragic romance that JK Rowling first hinted at a decade ago on Twitter. “Crimes” has to fit nearly a dozen more characters in a two hour span, and the story suffers for it. The performances were all good, but several of the new characters were given little to do. Worse, the motivations of the returning characters don’t line up with where we last saw them.

It often feels like important scenes were cut. One character who we are led to believe will be an important antagonist, straight up disappears halfway through the movie. As a longtime Harry Potter fan, “The Crimes of Grindelwald” gives me an idea of how hard it must be to keep track of these movies without having read the books first.

It’s a shame this movie comes off as less than the sum of its parts, because a lot of those parts are quite engaging. The wizarding world’s costume and creature designs only seem to get better with each movie. Some of the fantastic beasts feel as if they were shoe-horned into the plot so the title of this five-part series makes sense, but every creature was rendered beautifully. The Niffler, its role expanded after its first kleptomaniac outing, is now officially the cutest marsupial ever devised. Don’t @ me, Australia.

Eddie Redmayne continues to delight as magizoologist Newt Scamander. I don’t understand the criticism that his character lacks some qualities of a good protagonist. Newt’s shy and non-confrontational demeanor is part of what makes him interesting. In a world that has recently seen the Harry Potter, Divergent, Maze Runner, and Twilight series come and go, it’s nice that Scamander isn’t another “teen in over his head, destined for greatness.” That goes for everyone in “Crimes.” In a movie that needs some serious streamlining, it’s helpful that all wizards involved are already fully competent with magic. Complex spells and potions don’t need exposition anymore, which makes it easier for fans to enjoy the ride.

It’s hard to know how this movie will ultimately be judged, as that depends on the next three movies. If “The Crimes of Grindelwald” does a good job leading into the rest of the “Fantastic Beasts” series, fans in the future will likely forgive its shortcomings. Until then, it’s still an enjoyable way to spend a couple hours. With Thanksgiving coming up, you may find yourself trying to kill time with your family. I firmly believe it’s time to stop giving money to the people who made Minions, so for the love of God, don’t take the kids to the new “Grinch” movie. Instead, Accio yourself some tickets to “Grindelwald,” its’ fuzzy animated beasts are much cuter than those of Seuss’s latest outing, anyway.

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Grindelwald’s biggest crime? An unfocused plot