First there was the book, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” J.K. Rowling’s little piffle of a volume that could be read in a half-hour, and was simply a compendium of creatures found within her world of wizards, serving as a companion to her Harry Potter books. Then there was the movie of the same title, marking the first script written by Rowling, who proceeded to spin a dizzyingly complex story of good wizards and bad wizards and the problems created when Muggles (in America, they go by the name No-Maj) got involved with them.
If you haven’t seen that film, you’ve got no business going to this sequel. You will not know what the heck is going on. If you saw but didn’t like the first one, that’s another reason to stay away, because it’s more, a lot more, of the same. But plenty of people did like the initial entry in what’s planned to be a five-film series. They liked it to the tune of $814 million at the box office. For those people, this one’s going to be a treat, even though it’s still only the early part of what’s to come. Here’s the deal: In the first one, characters were introduced and the story was set up. In this one, which begins six months later, many of the same characters return, but they and their relationships with each other have evolved, and not always for the better. There are also new characters brought in who interact with the established ones, sending the story off in new directions.
Benevolent wizard and creature-lover Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), still wearing a bemused look on his face, is back, as is Auror (investigative wizard catcher) Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), though the spark of possible romance between them in the first film has been thrown off track. Also back are Tina’s Legilimens (mind reading) sister Queenie (Alison Sudol) and the No-Maj (non-magical) baker Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) who, against wizardry rules, fell for each other in the first one but are now facing complications.
Old characters: The dark, evil Grindelwald (Johnny Depp), who has plans to destroy the peace between the wizard and the non-wizard worlds; and the troubled Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller) — Huh? Didn’t he get killed off? No matter, that’s clarified — who has become the object of many people’s searches.
New characters: Theseus Scamander (Callum Turner), Newt’s older brother, who holds a position in the Ministry of Magic’s Department of Magical Law Enforcement; Nagini (Claudia Kim) who, without any spoiling here, will be well known to fans of the Potter books; and Dumbledore — make that the much younger Dumbledore (Jude Law, playing it with an air of mystery as well as a twinkle in his eye).
There are also plenty of beasts, some of which are cute and cuddly — look for a batch of platypus-like baby Nifflers — and not-so-cute — watch out for the tiger-like Zouwu! But there’s an accompanying question involving the film’s title. Does the word “beasts” just refer to magical creatures, or does it also take in the actions and behavior of some of the people here? A related question goes to the rest of the title. Should this really be called “The Crimes of Grindelwald” or would “The Secrets of Credence” have been a better choice?
That’s for viewers to decide, but I felt that Credence was at the center of everything happening. Who exactly is this guy, wonder a lot of characters, with the befuddled Credence being one of them. Rowling has a huge story to tell here, and there are moments that feel too complicated, followed by explanations that only make things murkier. Added to that is the currently fashionable big-budget movie formula of overloading with visual effects, maybe to briefly take people’s minds off the story gaps. But with three more films coming, there will be ample opportunity for Rowling to sort things out, and spread them out. The first film took place in New York City, this one is set in Paris, and the third is tentatively scheduled to be filmed in Rio de Janeiro. But we don’t get to see it till 2020.
— Ed Symkus writes about movies for More Content Now. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindewald”
Written by J.K. Rowling; directed by David Yates
With Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Johnny Depp, Ezra Miller, Jude Law