BY the power vested in me as a film critic, I can say exactly where some of you will be around this time in 2024: in a cinema, watching the final instalment of the Fantastic Beasts series of prequels to Harry Potter. How’s that for magic?
Not that impressive, really, since creator and screenwriter JK Rowling announced a couple of years ago that there would be five films in the series. When Ms R, whose Potter films have earned hundreds of millions and put the British film industry back on its feet, makes a prediction you can take it to the bank.
The first instalment, 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, was a deserved hit. Set in a more sophisticated world than Potter, Beasts had the added advantages of animals and adults taking the place of posh kids with variable acting skills. The Crimes of Grindelwald sticks to the same formula, but to lesser effect. While fans will doubtless enjoy it, the non-Potter obsessed may find themselves struggling with, or yawning over, what is a convoluted yarn.
Crimes opens with outlaw wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp, all peroxide hair and coloured contact lenses) being moved from a jail in the US to Europe to answer for his crimes. With the wizarding world unable to stretch to a decent prisoner transfer system, best laid plans go the usual way.
Meanwhile, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), the David Attenborough of fantastic beasts, is back in London after his New York jaunt. He is keen to travel again, but the Ministry of Magic, wishing to keep his wings clipped, denies him permission to travel. Newt soon finds a way after his old teacher, Dumbledore (Jude Law), asks for his help in confronting Grindelwald in Paris.
Before you can say “I don’t remember Jude Law having that much hair before”, the old gang from the first film, jovial baker Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), ditzy Queenie (Alison Sudol), and Tina (Katherine Waterston) the super-cool officer from the US equivalent of the Ministry of Magic.

Tina, with her Louise Brooks-bob, is possible the only person alive who can rock a full length black leather coat and not bring to mind the phrase, “‘Allo, allo”.
Director David Yates, who helmed the last Beasts after a clutch of Potters, does not provide much in the way of a catch-up service. Those who do not want to feel hopelessly lost might like to do some homework before they go. He is rather stingy, too, when it comes to the action scenes and the beasts themselves, though the ones the special effects team do conjure up are either pleasingly cute or impressively alarming.
Yates’s trouble, and the problem with the film as a whole, is that is dense with detail and paced like the second instalment of a five act piece. It treats the audience as though they have all the time in the world, and the patience, to hang around while Rowling adds plot point after plot point like so many baubles being hung on a Christmas tree. 
Goodness she loves her revelations, and setting up storylines for films to come. An entire shoal of red herrings swims through Crimes and several trunk loads of secrets are revealed, which is great value for fans but a touch confusing for the more casual watcher who has come along for the animals, Eddie Redmayne’s Hugh Grant impersonation, all golly gosh bumbling and blushing, and Johnny Depp being dastardly in an English accent.
Just as well the picture is so wonderful to look at. The wizarding world, and late 1920s Paris, are staged in stunning detail and lit beautifully. The women’s costumes could have graced the pages of Vogue at the time. Bravo the design and cinematography teams. Having done such a marvellous job of capturing period New York and Paris, I can’t wait to see where they go next. Any chance of Glasgow?