Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is the highly anticipated fantasy sequel to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the spin-off and prequel to the Harry Potter film series. Audiences are taken back to the 1920’s and are reunited with our favourite Magizoologist, Newt Scamander played by Eddie Redmayne who since the events of the previous film, is now under a travel ban and is not allowed to leave the country. However, this does not stop him as he ends up travelling to Paris, France to find his American Auror friend, Tina played by Katherine Waterson and Obscurial fugitive, Credence played by Ezra Miller.
I’m going to be honest with you. While I loved the film, I am a massive Harry Potter fan and found the characters and storyline easy to follow because I am already aware of how deeply rooted the Wizarding World is. But I can understand how non-Potterhead viewers would be confused and lost.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald isn’t built for casual viewers nor critics, it is specifically meant for the fans. I personally thoroughly enjoyed the not-so-hidden little tribute links to the original Harry Potter film series which were scattered throughout Crimes of Grindelwald. This was a great surprise for Harry Potter fans considering Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them purposely had no links to the Harry Potter series, as J.K. Rowling desired for it to be a standalone film – which completely makes sense considering it was essentially the launch of a new film series.
In Crimes of Grindelwald, there are many return characters such as Dan Fogler as ‘No-Maj/Muggle’ Jacob Kowalski, Alison Sudol as Queenie Goldstein and previously mentioned Tina Goldstein played by Katherine Waterson and Ezra Miller’s Creedence Barebone. But there are also new characters such as Leta Lestrange played by Zoe Kravitz, Theseus Scamander, Newt’s brother played by Callum Turner, Claudia Kim as Credence’s friend Nagini, Jude Law as a young Albus Dumbledore and lastly, the title role, Gellert Grindelwald played by Johnny Depp. Now to the dedicated Potterhead, this is fine, but for the average ‘muggle’, the many characters can be confusing and quite overwhelming to follow. I did not find the many characters difficult to follow, but then again, I am not a casual viewer.
Eddie Redmayne is great once again as Newt Scamander. Although, I feel we see much less of him in comparison to the first film as screen time is spread out to show and introduce the other characters. I really enjoyed Jude Law as a young Albus Dumbledore who shone everytime he was on-screen, but I admit I wanted to see more of him and feel he will play a greater part in the future films. Johnny Depp is one new addition that I was quite worried about, but he proved me wrong by playing Gellert Grinderwald so awfully heartless, cruel and calculating, that I understand why he was chosen for the role. Could the role have been played by someone else though? Absolutely. I’m not going to lie, I found myself missing Colin Farrell from the previous film. Surprisingly, the stand out performance in the film for me would have to be Alison Sudol as Queenie. I thought not only was she impressive displaying Queenie‘s emotional depth, but the use of costumes, hair and make-up visually displaying her transition to accompany Sudol‘s outstanding performance was very clever.
Yes, there are many “loop holes” in the film and unanswered questions, but one must not forget that this film is only the second in a 5-part film series. And the difference between the initial Harry Potter series in comparison with Fantastic Beasts is that Harry Potter, while using many of the same characters every time, had every story self-contained with the events unfolding always concluding by the end of each film.
Fantastic Beasts does not share the same self-contained chapter format, the films all link into one big story with no real resolution and thus intentionally leaves many unanswered questions and cliffhangers. This is not a bad thing, merely another form of storytelling. And while linked and both part of J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World, these film series are not the same. Fantastic Beasts is more serious and mature, coming from a darker, more sinister time, especially with Crimes of Grindelwald being emotionally and visually darker than any other film in the entire wizarding universe.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is visually stunning and although not as colourful as it’s predecessor due to the dark themes of the storyline, the designs of the magical beasts and costume do not disappoint, nor do the performances of the cast.
In the IMAX 3D version of the film, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald displays the film with ‘frame breaks’, where magical beasts and characters really do occasionally step out of the frame. While I’m not normally a fan of 3D, for this film it is actually really fascinating and visually mesmerizing to see. So if you have the opportunity to see Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald in IMAX, I highly recommend it.
I was so excited to see Newt’s Bowtruckle and Niffler again and missed that the film wasn’t all about finding magical beasts like the first film, but Crimes of Grindelwald was always going to be different. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is unyielding and heartbreaking. While casual viewers may be fizzed out by the possible over-stimulation, I believe fans will be surprised by the big reveals. I for one found the film thoroughly satisfying and mind-blowing, as did the company I brought with me when I attended the Melbourne premiere, but then again, we’re no muggles. Before seeing Crimes of Grindelwald, I did rewatch the first film as well as the Harry Potter series. I found it helped me in appreciating and understanding Crimes of Grindelwald a lot better than I would have without. Perhaps the film to some doesn’t make any sense, but the story isn’t over yet. I personally can’t wait to see what J.K. Rowling has brewing for the next one.