Film Review – Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
There is nothing like going back to a beloved series, so etched in your mind both the experiences of reading the books and then seeing the film adaptations. While it is not Harry Potter, it is the same universe only in prequel form and expanding on our knowledge of how things in the world of Harry Potter came to be. After the success of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the story proceeds with Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.
Picking up six months after the end of the first Fantastic Beasts, the film opens with a bang. Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) is secured at the US Ministry of Magic; only the European Ministries want to exact their own punishment on him. He is in the process of being flown out of New York City when he escapes due to the assistance of Abernathy (Kevin Guthrie), a minor character from the first Fantastic Beasts. This sets the foundation for the rest of the film as we find Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) in London trying to get a travel permit to leave the country. It is at the English Ministry of Magic that we are introduced to Leta Lestrange (Zoë Kravitz) and Newt’s brother Theseus (Callum Turner), both of whom work at the Ministry. In short, Newt will not join his brother at the Ministry, so he is denied his permit. Newt also learns that Credence (Ezra Miller) has survived the attack in New York City and is currently in Paris. The Ministry is on high-alert because of Grindelwald’s return, but also because of Credence’s power of destruction.
What gets the original four characters back together for this film is Queenie (Allison Sudol) bringing Jacob (Dan Fogler) to London. With this reunion, it is evident that Newt still cares for Tina (Katherine Waterson). After an argument about forbidden marriages, Queenie flees London for Paris, and then Newt finds out that Tina is in Paris hunting Credence. Thus, the most interesting and comical pair of characters in this series, Newt and Jacob, travel to Paris by a secret port key.
There are a few plot lines that drive this film. One is Credence finding his real mother and who he really is. Second is Grindelwald’s search for Credence to bring him to his side. The third is the search for Grindelwald and Credence by the Ministry as well as Newt and company. Fourth is Newt’s search for Tina and Jacob’s search for Queenie to make up with her. It’s a lot of material to fit into a two hour and fourteen-minute runtime, but this is not the last film in this series. Not everything is resolved, and more questions are added at the end.
Nostalgia plays an important part in the second Fantastic Beasts. We return to Hogwarts and the London Ministry of Magic, as well as familiar characters like Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) and Professor McGonagall (Fiona Glascott). That iconic Harry Potter music plays as Hogwarts comes into view and it is enough to give you warm fuzzies. Dumbledore’s relationship with Newt and Leta is explored further with flashbacks to their school days with Dumbledore as the professor of Defense of the Dark Arts. This lay bares the friendship between Leta and Newt and why they were both outcasts in their class.
Other than not having more interactions between Theseus and Newt, my only major complaint about the film is the non-existent explanation for how Credence survived the onslaught of spells thrown at him in the first film. He just simply survived and still harbors an Obscurial within him.
The film has benefitted immensely by having author J.K. Rowling as the screenwriter and David Yates as the director. This is Yates’ sixth film set in the world of Harry Potter. J.K. Rowling is increasing fans’ knowledge of what happened before Harry Potter. This is basically another book but in film format only. One of the compelling elements of these prequels is the references to what we know will happen in the future, and she is leaving fans with questions about characters we already thought we knew about fully.
The surprise reveal at the end of the first film made it clear that Johnny Depp would be a part of this franchise and playing this major character in the next film. Criticism of his casting in the wake of his personal issues is not unwarranted. However, Depp embodies the role of Grindelwald brilliantly, treading the line between evil and genius delicately, but throwing himself completely into the evil category given the right situation (and that is made clear from his arrival in Paris). Could other actors have played this role? Yes, but Depp is known for disappearing into these roles and Grindelwald is no exception.
One of the hashtags and phrases of these films is “Protect the Secrets,” and so it is hard to discuss the intricacies of the story and the surprises along the way in a review. Other than the Credence issue, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is a lovely amalgam of interesting stories traveling towards the same end. As a zookeeper and conservationist, I will forever love Newt Scamander and his creator for applying the same passion for animals and their environments to a different world. We get to meet more fantastical creatures and crowd-favorite, Niffler, continues his search for shiny things. This second film is just as enjoyable as the first, and while there is not a satisfying end to this story, it builds on the foundation for the next film by adding more mystery and questions that I can’t wait to learn about more. Dumbledore and Hogwarts are now introduced and won’t be going anywhere, destined to play parts in the next films. Fans of this series know where all these Fantastic Beasts films are heading and this film is an impressive and thrilling stepping stone to that end.