[MUST WATCH] Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

judy adamson
[MUST WATCH] Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald image

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
Rated M

The much-anticipated second movie in the Fantastic Beasts franchise follows the Harry Potter story arc by taking its audience into more dangerous territory.

However, not being burdened by having its genesis in a children’s book, J.K. Rowling (who has written the screenplay) is able to take her audience into the darkness a lot faster than was possible with her Potterverse. And it’s a non-stop ride, chock-full of new characters, beasts and almost constant action – my youthful companion sat back during the end credits and murmured, “That was insane”. So be prepared.

This film is set predominantly in Paris, where Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) heads as soon as he escapes captivity in the US (where he finished film one). Naturally, he’s planning a wizard rebellion and eventual takeover of the non-magical world, but he’s also looking for Credence (Ezra Miller), the violent, downtrodden young man of the first Fantastic Beasts film – who everyone thought was dead until the trailers for film two came out. Now working in a magical circus Credence, with his incredibly powerful and uncontrolled magic, is somehow central to Grindelwald’s plans.

Thickening the plot, our shy, animal-loving hero Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is sent by Dumbledore (a stylish portrayal by Jude Law) to try and stop Grindelwald. Newt can’t understand why Dumbledore, a far more powerful wizard, can’t make the move against the enemy himself. And nor can we. But all will be revealed.

Some find Redmayne’s characterisation of Newt too soft. Quirky and awkward – unless he’s with animals – Newt is non-judgemental, unassuming and therefore underestimated, but to me it’s a pitch-perfect portrayal of someone who becomes hero-like only through circumstances. Thankfully not all courage under fire looks like Tom Cruise!

All of us are capable of evil 

Rowling is big on using language and names to provide hints about history, a character’s motivations, and links to the past and future. In that vein, it’d be hard not to connect Grindelwald’s followers with Nazis (as was so easy to do in the Potter series), especially given the rise of fascism in Europe around the time in which this movie is set – the late 1920s.

Grindelwald is a persuasive speaker, drawing wizards to himself with talk of brotherhood, truth, love and freedom, and hiding the greater part of his plans for power and the domination of the non-magical world. Yes, he’s a twisted soul, but it would be too simplistic to just regard him a “devil” type, with all his followers as evil and everyone else occupying the “side” of the good and righteous.

What’s probably more helpful to remember is that, as fallen creatures, all of us are capable of evil. In The Crimes of Grindelwald a number of characters struggle with what they have done – whether intentionally or unintentionally – and must come to their own decisions about redemption, human value and the importance of compassion. As must we.

Definitely worth watching 

Characters we enjoyed in the first Fantastic Beasts film are back in this outing – including my particular favourite, Muggle baker Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler). There’s also a raft of new characters, including Newt’s brother, a former love interest, snake woman Nagini and the highly entertaining alchemist Nicolas Flamel. Also, the creatures are even more engaging than last time.

In the end, if you like being taken on a magical ride, jumping back into Rowling’s wizarding world will be an enjoyable journey – even if keeping up might be tricky. Fans can rest assured that there’s a huge plot reveal in the final half hour, although you’ll have more questions than answers by the time the credits roll. But, in a way, that’s half the fun.