Our review of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
Part two of a franchise is always difficult to pull off. You have the charm of the first film that needs to be recaptured and a new story that has to be told. When a film is the second in a five film series, that just adds to the difficulty. How do you get part of a story in, knowing how much more there is to come? When it’s part of a huge universe like the Wizarding World, you’ve got to ground the story, hit on all the points fans are looking for, but tell a whole new story. You have to find a balance between fan service and making the story unique. Warner Bros.‘ Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald does manage to find that balance, and it’s a roaring good tale that wouldn’t have been possible without the ones that came before it.
Though the film might be a little rough going for the three people who haven’t seen Harry Potter, Crimes of Grindelwald immediately sucks you into the story. We know Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) escapes, so it’s hardly a spoiler to say so, and it’s done well here, with few words and a surprisingly understated performance from Depp. For those of us used to his over-the-top weird characters, this is a huge breath of fresh air. Depp’s only oddness is the contact lens in his eye. The insidiousness of Grindelwald is that he makes some sense, and that he doesn’t sound like a nutter. It makes him all the more frightening, and it’s understandable that someone like Dumbledore (Jude Law) would have fallen in love with him.
Speaking of their relationship, we don’t see much here, but it is very well implied that there is far more going on than just a friendship. If the film series continues to reveal their relationship, it could be pretty powerful. Law works as a young Dumbledore, and though he isn’t in the film for very long, his appearances, like Dumbledore’s in Harry’s life, are meaningful and powerful.
Redmayne continues to impress as Newt Scamander. His inability to meet someone’s eye for long, and the sweetness of his character are the perfect setting to watch someone realize that they can no longer sit back and let everyone else try to fix the world. It’s upsettingly on the nose considering what’s happening in the world right now, but it’s a good message to send. You can’t wait for other people to change things. You have to do the right thing right now. Though Callum Turner’s Theseus Scamander is underused, you get the relationship between Newt and his brother right away, outside of the incredible resemblance between Turner and Redmayne. The relationship between Leeta LeStrange (Zoe Kravitz) and Newt is beautifully carried out, and you can understand why they wanted to be together, as well as why there was no way that relationship would ever work.
The return of Jacob (Dan Fogler) and Queenie (Alison Sudol) is a welcome bit of comic relief in a dark story, but it’s far more than that. There are a lot of issues here, and comic relief is no longer what these characters are for, lovely as they are. Their story brings up questions about what it’s safe and moral to do for love, and how easily things can change when someone is easily swayed. I won’t say more than that, but it’s a story I want to continue watching. Tina (Katherine Waterston) continues to be who I’d like to be when I grow up, and the hesitant relationship between Tina and Newt is a perfect foil to that of Jacob and Queenie.
The Credence (Ezra Miller) story is central to the plot and there is a big reveal here. (See this film before its spoiled for you. Trust me, you don’t know what you’re going to see.) Miller is much darker than he was before, and though it feels like there was more to the story between he and Nagini (Claudia Kim), you get their relationship right away. I want to say more about Nagini, but I don’t want to spoil anything, so suffice it to say that she is important to Credence and there is more to her story.
Finally, the beasts. There are a ton of new ones here, and of course, the baby Nifflers are the highlight. The biggest attraction of the character of Newt is the joy in his eyes when his creatures respond to him. (We get to see some backstory about this in the film, which is wonderful.) There is a cat toy reference in here that will have the audience howling, and the scene where Newt rides an aquatic creature is a triumph of effects work.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is a juicy bit of storytelling and I’m dying for the next chapter. Also, I would like one baby Niffler, please. I’m sure I have enough shiny things in the house. The film opens in theaters on November 16, 2018.