Film Review: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
When a new chapter of a movie franchise is released there is always great excitement, but also great fear along with it. As with the Last Jedi this past year, there was tremendous hype from fans that loved the Star Wars movies (such as myself) that this could be the best one in the saga. The excitement grew right up to opening night, but the result was not the hype it should have been, and fans are still mad about the movie, with some even signing petitions to remove it as a Star Wars movie. The fear that comes with the excitement of a new installment to a movie franchise is that one has been so used to seeing these movies that there is a formula to it that seems too sacred to be broken. If the director wants to try and do something different in the movie franchise with the story or its characters, he or she is risking the backlash of those who are passionate about a movie franchise. It is no different for the Harry Potter universe of J.K. Rowling. Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them was a huge risk because it was set in a completely different time in the wizarding world many of people had come to love, and there was a chance they would not be accepting of something that might not follow the same formula. Still, even with a new timeline and characters, Rowling was able to capture the same magical feelings her world bestowed upon us back in 1997. It also opened the doors to continue this story following Newt Scamander in this new series of movies to go even further into the world of magic. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is darker and bolder than any of the other films, while linking different eras of the Potter versus to each other that both fans of this series and old will enjoy.
Director David Yates and Wizarding World creator J.K Rowling are at the helm of this second installment, but the charming quirkiness in the first movie is gone as there is more at stake this time around. The movie is set several months after the first film, and the first scene gives you a feeling of how much darkness you are in store for the rest of the way. Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) is being transferred back to Europe for his crimes, but he escapes in a way that shows us just how smart and cunning Grindelwald is as the worthy antagonist of this era. Now free, he may continue gaining followers that share the same ideology where pureblood wizards shall no longer stay hidden in the shadow, and rule over muggles. The thought of no longer having rules over one’s head is something that will test the rest of the characters throughout this movie, and ultimately leads to what side one will choose. One who hates to pick a side is Newt Scamander, who is back in England and has been restricted to travel anywhere because of events from the first film. Enter someone familiar to fans who has a track record about not following the rules, Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law). The future headmaster of Hogwarts (who in this timeline is the defense against dark arts teacher) grabs Newt after his meeting with the ministry, and in one of the more exciting sequences across a London fogged bridge presents Newt the assignment of going to Paris to again face Grindelwald who is there in search of Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller) who has survived New York and is now searching for answers about his ancestry. When asked why he cannot do it himself, Dumbledore says he cannot move against Grindelwald, and it is one of the many mysteries we are left to figure out to the end of this film. Newt is aided by Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), who since opening a successful bakery has been illegally enchanted by Queenie Goldstein (Alison Studol) to believe that they are engaged which is a restriction in the world of magic, and causes a riff between them as she searches for clarity of her feelings. It takes them all to Paris for the reason Newt really wants to go, Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston). Tina is there on assignment to find the Obscurus before Grindelwald. Newt’s mission is to tell her that he is not engaged to Leta Lestrange (Zoe Kravitz), but it is actually his brother Theseus (Callum Turner) who is. You can probably guess all of this will lead to a showdown with Grindelwald as to who will reach Credence first.
The cast is as solid as one would require for the wizarding realm. Eddie Redmayne continues his bumbling perfection as Newt and makes him the right hero during this Nazi era of witches and wizards. The rest of the returning actors continue to make us remember why we love them, and there is even more of a story for some of them. The performance that surprised me the most was Jude Law. Playing a character like Albus Dumbledore should be easy because of the resources of material, but could also have bad results because he is so familiar to this genre and one might be compared to the other actors who have played him in the past. Although Law says he studied both Michael Gambon and Richard Harris, he has made this timeless Dumbledore his own without needing to channel either. There is still the warmth and calmness that has made him one of the most beloved characters, but also behind the kindness of his eyes lay secrets that may even challenge ones admiration for this character. As for Grindelwald, I enjoyed the character as the architect for this fascism movement of wizards of this time, but I could do without Depp playing the character. Aside from his problems off-screen his gimmick has hit a level where it just makes me yawn. I believe Colin Farrell to be a fine choice as the villain with a cold soul who can still somehow win over people with his voice and not his actions.
I enjoyed seeing character’s story arcs such as Credence and Queenie grow, as well as the introduction to characters from the Harry Potter films like Nagini (Claudia), although her story does not get the proper respect it should. One of the main problems with this film is that there are so many characters and storylines, that it sometimes feels like too much. In fact I was wondering if J.K Rowling was writing a screenplay or a novel. But, one must remember that this is not a stand-alone film, but the second of a planned five part movie series. The film brings different mysteries that are solved by the end and make you wish there was a spell to take you to the next film as you leave the theater. Although this film is dark, it is needed to capture the world of magic in the eyes of adults, where as Harry Potter was always followed from the eyes of children. Still, Newt brings that innocence and love that keep this film for kids to see. Although the beasts are not as much of the stars of the film as the first, they shine whenever they are on screen and it is their personalities and importance of certain scenes that have them still in the title. There are greater special effects and the stakes are higher than last time, making this a worthy addition in the Harry Potter World.
Crimes of Grindelwald release in theatres this week on November 16, 2018.