“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” is the latest installment in the “Fantastic Beasts” spin-off saga set in the Harry Potter universe, created by J.K. Rowling. David Yates, who gained fame from directing the final four HP movies, directed.
After the success of the first film, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” fans were excited for the newest addition to the rumored five movie franchise. Set in the 1920s, “Grindelwald” shows the wizarding world in a different setting, allowing fans to see the richness and history that the original HP series only hinted at. While its predecessor had the theme and plot about a fun, boy-meets-girl-while-chasing-magical-creatures, “Grindelwald” strays from that, diving headfirst into the strife and violence in the wizarding world that the first film introduced towards its end.
Academy Award winner Eddie Redmayne returns as Newt Scamander, the hero magizooligist of “Fantastic Beasts.” Then, Newt’s main focus was on tracking down his escaped beasts. This time, a much younger Albus Dumbledore, played by BAFTA winner Jude Law, sends Newt on two life-changing tasks: finding the most powerful Obscurial ever, Credence (played by Cannes Film Festival winner Ezra Miller), and fighting against Johnny Depp’s titular villain, Gellert Grindelwald.
In comparison to the first movie, “Grindelwald” is much darker and information based, rather than a magically entertaining adventure. I enjoyed the movie immensely, but the story was so convoluted that it was hard to just relax and appreciate what was going on. Revelation after revelation was revealed; it felt like every name-drop, shocking character background, and casual easter egg was put in for shock value, instead of for building the story.
Throughout the film, there are several moments where the easygoing nature of its predecessor make an appearance, but those are few and far between. Mainly, the plot revolves around Grindelwald’s rise to power and the consequences the magical world face from that. However, multiple storylines were also playing out simultaneously, including Credence’s search for his real identity, Newt’s complicated family relationships, and more. Moviegoers barely had time to digest the wondrous, vital contents of one scene before another, equally amazing and important scene was practically shoved down their throats.Like I mentioned earlier, with all that was happening, it was difficult to appreciate the majesty of such a popular fictional world. Awe-inspiring acts of power were nonchalantly thrown in without time to be absorbed. In the very beginning, Grindelwald makes his spectacular escape from prison, complete with a flying carriage and ferocious spells. Unfortunately, audiences are more focused on the details to enjoy it as a whole.
Speaking of magic, the CGI in “Grindelwald” was nonetheless the best seen in all of the Harry Potter universe. The new creatures in Newt’s seemingly endless suitcase and the ones he comes across rival the fantastic-ness of his initial creatures. One that’s sure to be the next fan-favorite is the Zouwu, a large, cat-like animal from China that apparently loves to play with small, feathered toys. Furthermore, unlike before, the wizarding world is depicted more freely, in all its colorful splendor. The drab and familiar halls of Hogwarts were replaced by bustling cities full of wizards and witches hidden in plain sight.
One of the biggest strengths of “Grindelwald” was Zoe Kravitz’s depiction of Leta Lestrange, Newt’s first love. She made her debut after having only appeared as a moving photograph in the first film, and in every scene she was in she stole the spotlight. Mysterious and beautiful, Leta’s complex history and friendship with Newt draws you in. I wished they had given her storyline more screen time, not only because of Zoe’s acting skills, but also because of how deeply it tied into the overall plot.