I will say the same thing about this movie that I said about its predecessor. The Fantastic Beasts themselves are lovely, and it’s amazing to see them on the big screen, as well as Eddie Redmayne’s fantastic performance as Newt Scamander. Scamander loves these creatures, and operates better with them than he does with people. As for the rest of the movie, it’s cluttered, choppy, complicated, and feels like a lot of filler between the first one and the next one. Let’s see if I am capable of summing up the plot.
The Crimes of Grindelwald begin with Gellert Grindelwald in American wizard prison, after he turned out to not be Colin Farrell in the previous movie. However, it seems he wasn’t in prison – or he was, but his henchman looked like him? In any case, he escapes during his transfer from America to England, and heads to Paris. Meanwhile, Newt Scamander is hanging out in England, collecting and caring for Magical Creatures while writing a book on them. His older brother Theseus is trying to get him to come work at the ministry with him so that he can get his travel ban lifted and they can go after Grindelwald in Paris. As much as Newt wants the travel ban lifted (he wants to meet back up with the lady he fell for in America, Tina), he won’t work for the ministry. Theseus and his lady love Leta Lestrange, who is clearly more into Newt, are preparing for their mission while a young Albus Dumbledore, who is teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts, meets up with Newt and begs him to go to Paris as well.
Apparently, Grindelwald is in Paris to get Credence Barebones, because his Obscurus parasite is super powerful and can kill Dumbledore, and Dumbledore is the only thing standing in Grindelwald’s way of ruling. At least, I think that’s his plan. He’s attempting to unite multiple people to his cause, and is being very successful, but believes only Dumbledore will stand in his way. Dumbledore tells Newt pretty much the same thing, but admits he cannot do anything about it and it has to be Newt. It seems that when they were young, Grindelwald and Dumbledore were in love (this is not stated in the movie, it’s just strongly insinuated) and made an unbreakable vow that they would never fight each other. So, Grindelwald needs Credence to defeat Dumbledore, and Dumbledore needs Newt to try to ‘save’ Credence.
If this all seems very complicated, please bear in mind that I have not yet mentioned how Queenie enchanted Jacob, and is slowing getting entranced by Grindelwald’s message. Leta is having some serious guilt issues because it’s hinted that Credence may actually be her long lost brother, even though she knows that is not possible. And her half-brother Yusuf Kama has vowed to kill Credence for destroying his family. And, on top of that, there’s the introduction (or maybe re-introduction?) of Naigini and the surprise (spoiler) appearance of Nicolas Flamel.
Look, it’s all very ridiculous and you need some serious notepads to keep track of everything and everyone. Again, the best parts are Newt interacting with creatures, and while there are quite a few (The Zouwu is amazing), there are not enough. There is far too much standing around talking about bloodlines, families, and whether magic folks should be ruling non-magic folks. David Yates has done multiple Harry Potter movies, and two of these, so he definitely has a feel for them. His Harry Potter movies always felt choppy to me, but I always assumed that was because he was visualizing a book, and so had to cut out a great deal. Here, however, there’s no book – just original material written by J.K. Rowling. The cast is certainly entertaining, and does their best with the material at hand.
- Eddie Redmayne is wonderful as the ‘better-with-animals’ Newt. He’s charming and pleasant, but also capable of action when needed.
- Dan Fogler plays Jacob Kowalski, Newt’s buddy from America. After the events of the first movie, his memory was supposed to be wiped, but that didn’t take, so he’s now traveling with Alison Sudol’s Queenie.
- Alison Sudol plays Queenie, and as she realizes her community won't let her be with Jacob, she gets more and more drawn in to Grindelwald - who is promising her she can be with whoever she wants.
- Katherine Waterston plays Tina Goldstein. At this point she’s become an auror, and is traveling on mission. She mistakenly believes that Newt is engaged and is holding that against him. This introduces another entirely new subplot of Newt having to tell her what she means to him and also clarify that he is still single.
- Ezra Miller plays Credence Barebone who now has control over his Obscurus, and is single-mindedly pursuing the truth about his birth parents. This starts the subplot – or perhaps main plot – of his learning that his mother gave him up shortly after his birth and sent him to America to keep him safe. But who was she?
- Zoe Kravitz plays Leta Lestrange, who might win the subplot challenge. She has the clear subplot of being in love with Newt previously – and seemingly still is; as well as the subplot about her family, and if Credence is or is not her brother, and then a sub-subplot of what happened to her brother and what that had to do with her!
- Callum Turner plays Theseus Scamander. He’s part of the ministry, and genuinely wants to help his brother, even though he does not understand him. That could have been a subplot, but it’s not really dived into any deeper.
- Claudia Kim plays Nagini, a Maledictus, carrying a blood curse that will eventually turn her into a snake permanently, and have some dude stash part of his soul in her.
- Jude Law plays Albus Dumbledore, and you can see the twinkle in the eye that will be carried over into Michael Gambon’s version of the character. He’s clearly very strong, and determined, but also hampered by his previous affection for Grindelwald.
- Johnny Depp plays Gellert Grindelwald, and while I think we can all agree that we are suffering from the overexposure of Johnny Depp – he’s just fine in this. Grindelwald is supposed to be this incredibly powerful dark wizard, who is gifted with the ability to be a charismatic leader. He can talk anyone into following him and appreciating his cause. If you were to ask me what that cause is in this movie, I’m not sure I could clearly articulate it. He seems to want magical folk to rule non-magical and stop living in hiding. A little like Deacon Frost in the first Blade movie.
- Brontis Jodorowsky plays Nicholas Flamel. Incidentally, Flamel was a real person born in 1340 in France. He was quite an alchemist, and rumor had it, found the Philosopher’s Stone as was able to achieve immortality, even though he apparently died in 1418 (that’s only 78, not immortal). His story is used as the background of the first Harry Potter story.
- There’s a brief moment where Jamie Campbell Bower and Toby Regbo reprise their roles as young Grindelwald and Dumbledore, they were both in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1.
Overall, the movie is just fine, and for the fans who are absolutely entrenched in the Wizarding World – they know the families, the bloodlines, the items, the side characters, this movie will be perfection. I found it to be a little cluttered and disjointed, but entertaining nonetheless.
6 out of 10.
I am looking forward to the inevitable showdown between Depp and Law - that could be very interesting.
Cast Interview Fun: