It goes without saying that there are massive spoilers ahead.
- First off, let me say that the extended cut is better. It's only seven minutes longer, but those seven minutes add some very necessary scenes. Credence's rebirth in the alternate opening, Leta's fears in the ballroom scene, more time with Credence and Nagini, and an extended version of Newt and Albus Dumbledore's early conversation all serve to fill some of the many holes left in this film's plot. If you have access to the extended cut, watch it. It's worth it.
- There's a lot of magic here. Some of it is old but fresh such as Portkeys and fantastic beasts. Other elements are new and strange (looking at you, blood pacts, Maledictus, and vision-spewing skull). Some of it could do with deeper explanation, while other pieces fit in and carry as much weight as they need to. Nagini's status as a cursed wizardborn destined to become a snake makes her a tragic figure, and I'm not sure how well it fits with her story in the Harry Potter novels. But I'm invested in seeing where Rowling takes her.
- Okay, the timeline is all sorts of messed up (as far as we know now). McGonagall shouldn't be at Hogwarts, Credence can't really be a Dumbledore (or at least not Albus's full sibling), that's not actually the Titanic (much as it seems to evoke that image), and so on. For now, I'll overlook these things, but they are there and Rowling will have to deal with them eventually (at least Credence's lineage; the rest is hand-wave-able).
- As much as I love the various beasts in the first film, they feel more integrated here. Aside from the kelpie scene in Newt's basement, the beasts fit into the story as needed rather than becoming a bunch of MacGuffins on legs.
- For the record, I really, really, really dislike the way Queenie's arc was handled. It feels off, out of character, undeservedly heartless and naive. I am hoping she's been enchanted (her final exchange with Jacob seems to have some hints to this end), because otherwise I'm left trying to explain a powerful mind reader failing to see through Grindelwald's rhetoric to the truth of his heart. Maybe he's a skilled Occlumens; maybe his charisma is enough for him to project his desires on others. But Queenie's choice feels forced, not real, and I'm sticking with the enchantment theory till proven wrong.
- Newt, Tina, Leta, Theseus, Credence, and Nagini are all skillfully written and acted, despite some clunky (but necessary) exposition in the final act. Most of these actors and actresses deserve awards for the emotional ranges they display in small moments throughout the movie.
- This movie is complex; it bears repeated watching, much as the Pirates of the Caribbean movies do. The plot isn't as straightforward as the first, and it helps to not expect it to be. I don't think this film stands on its own as much as J. K. Rowling would like, but it certainly fills its place in the larger story. I have a feeling it will hold up better once more of the series is out, but it does feel less skillful than the first film. Honestly, it could have done with more movie, even beyond the extended cut, just to fill in some of the gaps (such as with Queenie's arc).
- I really don't know what to make of the Credence is a Dumbledore thing. There's got to be something to it, or else it's a cheap shot and I don't expect that from Rowling. This feels like a Snape killed Dumbledore moment. We think we've got the whole story, but there's another ten layers to be peeled back in the next film (or three). Grindelwald is obviously willing to lie, but how much of what he says is false is still to be determined. I like the theory that Ariana's Obscurus resides in Credence, but unlike Star Wars' revelation about Rey, I don't think they can just make Credence a nobody with a magical accident after so much time spent on his heritage.
- Please, please, please let us get more of Leta somehow. Flashbacks, revivals, unshown rescues. Something. She's this movie's Percival Graves for me. I want more.
- In short, I don't love this film as much as the first. But I do still love it. Newt and Tina, Leta and Theseus, (surprisingly) Jude Law's Albus Dumbledore, and Credence and Nagini all make me ready to rewatch this one as much as I would the first. For all its flaws, there's still enough here to bring me back, and I'm already anxious for the next installment because I want to know what comes next.
So what did you think of Crimes of Grindelwald? Are you still excited for the series to continue? If you've read the screenplay, does it add anything to our understanding of the film (unlike the first one)?