Readers of this are going to wonder- is it true? Is Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald as lackluster and joyless as the prior films? We can cut right to the chase and say no, that's not the case.
Crimes isn't one of the best of the films, but neither is it terrible by any stretch of the imagination. One has to go into it understanding what they're getting into, though. This second installment into the Fantastic Beasts planned quintet [that means 5] of films is definitely not the place to start one's foray into the expanded Harry Potter universe. This review will be spoiler free (at least it'll give no more information than has already been given out in the trailers).
When one considers how the middle film in a trilogy often suffers; it wasn't the fresh new discoveries of the first film, and it can't tie up any complete storylines, it's a bridge from one place to another. Here we're talking about part two of a five parter, so it's not even at the point of a reversal (in a traditional dramatic story structure), we're still putting all the pieces onto the chessboard. Most (but not all) of the characters had been introduced back in 2016's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Newt Scamander returns as the central character in Crimes of Grindelwald, and he still doesn't do so well with people- but spends his time studying and collecting the wide range of magical creatures.
Having come across and managing to help capture the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (played by Johnny Depp) at the end of the first film, Newt and his allies (and frenemies) have to step up their battles against Grindelwald's hechmen, and against his wider political appeal to the wizarding populace – whipping their fears about the encroachment of the no-mag's (the non-magical normal people) into their world. If it sounds like there's parallels into current global politics, it's because late 1920s Europe and America of today have not wildly dissimilar undercurrents, which author J.K. Rowling is only too happy to put a spotlight on.
The film is full of references to names, places, and situations which will make devout Potter fans perk up every time, and watching things begin to come into alignment which one can see how it'll likely evolve from these early days to the happenings nearly a century later around Harry Potter and He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named. The downside to the film is that it feels like there could have been another editing pass to trim up a number of scenes. The first 30 minutes are unusually slowly paced, beyond one action set piece. However once the film gets to the Magical Carnival, it seems to better hit it's stride.
Since The Crimes of Grindelwald leans into the audience needing to have a firm basis in the Wizarding World's mythos, it should have felt comfortable enough to hit the ground running. It shouldn't try to play it both ways, especially when it's not going to fill those lackluster times with something to glean into.
In time, Crimes Of Grindelwald will likely be seen for it's proper place in the overall Fantastic Beasts storyline, but for now, it's just another step towards… the middle chapter. So be prepared to have to wait another two years or so for more answers.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald opens in theaters on November 16th, 2018.