Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” is the newest “Wizarding World” magical spell created from the boundless mind of J.K. Rowling. It takes a close look at the Wizarding community in the pre-Harry Potter years. The Hogwarts school plays a much smaller part of this story, but it does make a welcome appearance. After the first movie in this sequence (“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”), this next chapter follows along with the main character of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne). Newt will figure prominently into the new story line, along with the other people he meets.
In the first movie, Newt was the one who captured the criminal Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) while Grindelwald was hiding in New York City. Newt met many magical people in New York, and one “Non-Maj” (non-magical person, in England they are called ‘muggles’).While in New York, Newt made very close friends with Tina (Katherine Waterston) and her sister Queenie (Alison Sudol). There is also Jacob Kowalski (Dan Folger), who is a non-magical type, but shares a bond of love with Queenie. Jacob was supposed to have his memory wiped out at the end of the first film, but he still remembers everything.
Newt’s brother Theseus (Callum Turner) is a high-ranking fellow in the British Ministry of Magic, and he attempts to convince Newt that he needs to be on their side. Grindelwald has gotten his followers to break him out of the jail cell he was being held in for three years, located in New York City. Grindelwald is out on the loose, and he is hunting the person who created much destruction in New York. He is looking for Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller), since he controls something called an Obscurus. This is a powerful Dark Magic object that Grindelwald wants to use to destroy the non-magical world, so he can take over.
Newt, Tina, Queenie and Jacob wind up in France to also look for Credence, because he is the key to finding Grindelwald. Newt has also had a visit with a Professor from Hogwarts named Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law). Dumbledore has a keen interest in stopping Grindelwald, however there is a close personal bond between Grindelwald and Dumbledore. Dumbledore is prevented from moving against Grindelwald, and he implores Newt to find Credence and then Grindelwald. Creedence has been located, and he is employed at a magical Freak Show with a close friend named Nagini (Claudia Kim). Nagini has a curse that turns her into a large snake (shades of Harry Potter movies that are set in the future!). There is also Leta Lestrange (Zoë Kravitz) who is an old Hogwarts BFF to Newt, but she is now engaged to Newt’s brother Theseus. Oh, and don’t forget Yusuf Kama (William Nadylam), who is also on a separate quest to find and kill Grindelwald, for personal and family reasons…
Yikes, there are a lot of characters and plot points to try to keep straight. Rowling screenplay creates a very rich and deep Wizarding World. Yet the incredible number of overlapping plot and interwoven characters make it hard to track of all of them. There a whole mess of characters, and the main ones are very well defined. But there are a huge number of side characters that get introduced and get such limited screen time that you do not know why they are important or what their ultimate purpose might be in the series. However, director David Yates does a fantastic job to take a complex story and give it a calm and steady push to the screen.
Also, the productions, sets and physical designs are all amazing and leap out from the screen and make the story come alive. Plus, getting the right actors to inhabit these roles make a major difference. Eddie Redmayne is true genius at making an oddball character come alive. Dan Folger has also just the right amount of comic relief and sense of wonder at seeing the Wizarding World up close and personal. Johnny Depp is creepy and charismatic as Gellert Grindelwald. And Jude Law is a perfectly cast Albus Dumbledore, the future Headmaster of Hogwarts.
Even if it is long movie with a lot going on, this is still a magical experience. Thanks to J.K. Rowling and the entire team that put this together, it is a “Fantastic Beast” of a production. It assumes that you are up to speed on all the Wizarding World goings-on, so it is best to see the prior movie (“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”) before your put your effort into this one. The special effects are very seemless and help to drive the story. A couple of the sequences are exciting to watch and keep you energized for the next one.
Oh, and then that FINAL reveal of the secret identity and background of THAT character! And how they are related to that OTHER character! OH – WOW! How can they keep all that a secret???? What does all this mean for the future of Newt and of future movies? You will just need to see for yourself…