Early viewers of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald were told to #ProtectTheSecrets. The directive might've been as much to conceal criticisms as to prevent spoilers, based on what critics are saying. Though the first installment in JK Rowling's Harry Potter spinoff was well-received, the second of five planned films—which sees Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) team up with Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) to track down escaped dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp)—has just a 44% rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes. (Audiences give it a healthier 76%) What happened?
- "Just because one can append more films to a bankable franchise doesn't mean one should," writes Leah Pickett at Chicago Reader, labeling the movie a "cash grab." It's "largely nonsensical and bloated with new characters, subplots, and postscripts to the source material about which the viewer is given little reason to care." A twist ending lands "with an anticlimactic thud," to boot.
- Bilge Ebiri liked the ending, which brings "a vaguely Trumpian echo," but not much else. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald "has even more setup than the first" and "nobody really seems to do anything," he writes at Vulture, also faulting the script and Redmayne for giving Scamander an "irritating" vibe. He concludes, "This movie's a bust, but I'll let myself remain hopeful."
- Who knew there was such a thing as "a boring magical circus"? That's what Dan Kois found in "the first flat-out terrible product of the Harry Potter expanded universe." A "charisma-free hero" and "bizarrely humorless" script are bad enough. But the film, with a "dogged determination to make everything as dull as possible," also fails to take advantage of its setting in 1920s Paris, Kois writes at Slate. "For now at least, I don't have any particular desire to visit the Wizarding World again."
- Jake Coyle sees the film as "a mixed bag of wonders," however. "The only real crime of Grindelwald is its sheer abundance," he writes at the AP. Though "overstuffed" and "a bit of a mess," it's "often dazzling" and has value as "an impressively dark and urgent parable of supremacist ideology aimed squarely at today’s demagogues of division," he writes.
(Rowling, meanwhile, is having an off-screen controversy