A Spoiler-Free Review of ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald’
The latest movie in the Fantastic Beasts series, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, premiered worldwide on Friday, Nov. 16. Some people were lucky enough to see it a few days earlier, but everyone has been fantastic about making sure to keep the internet spoiler-free for those who have not been able to watch it. If you are looking for spoilers, then sorry, find a different review, we at Nerds and Beyond are determined to #ProtectTheSecrets as J.K Rowling has asked of all of us.
Any Harry Potter nerd will adore this movie. It is another incredible addition to the world we know so well and wish we could all be a part of. With those first twinkling notes of “Hedwig’s Theme” as the film begins, you are immediately transported back into the magical world. The story picks up just a few months from the end of the previous Fantastic Beasts. Someone who has not seen the first one should be able to follow along and understand this new one with only mild confusion; however, we would not recommend using this movie to introduce someone to the Wizarding World because they will likely be extremely lost due to it not giving the characters we already know much exposition or backstory.
Crimes of Grindelwald moves at a fast pace, keeping viewers on their toes throughout the film. A lot (and we mean A LOT) happens in this story, and the characters finish the film in a much different place, emotionally and physically, than where they began.
The movie delves much further into Grindelwald, and therefore, Dumbledore’s story. We learn more about how Grindelwald plans to use his power to begin his domination of the wizarding and non-magical worlds, and how he plans to convince others to join his side. He presents a very convincing argument, and Johnny Depp does a wonderful job portraying Grindelwald’s charisma, magical power, and gracefulness, while maintaining that underlying tone of evil.
Though we already know Albus Dumbledore and much of his history from the Harry Potter films, we finally meet young Dumbledore (Jude Law) in this second installment of the series. Dumbledore works diligently behind the scenes to help Newt and others try to find Credence before he falls into Grindelwald’s hands. Dumbledore, for reasons unknown, however, is unable to take a more active role in the fight against his childhood friend and remains safely at Hogwarts. This suave and charming version of Dumbledore, though appreciated, is sometimes difficult to reconcile with the long-bearded, robed, and quietly powerful Albus Dumbledore we already know. It will be interesting how his story continues to play out in the rest of the series and to watch him become the wizard we recognize many years in the future.
While the series follows the story of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), we did not learn much more about him as a character in this movie. Newt definitely goes on quite the journey during the film (of which we will not say because spoilers), but with so many new characters and storylines included, there was not much for fans to discover about Newt. Sadly, the same thing applies for other characters from the first film like Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), and Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol). Each character does play an important role in the story, but even though they were active in moving the story forward, they were also easily glanced over by other characters and plot lines.
Credence (Ezra Miller), is a major player in this story arc. With everyone searching for and quite possibly trying to kill him, he is actively trying to figure out who he is and his history. He starts this by going on a quest to find his birth mother. Credence travels with a circus for a time, which eventually leads him to Paris. He makes friends with a Maledictus, a witch with a blood curse that allows her to transform into an animal at will but will eventually leave her as that animal permanently. This Maledictus is none other than the snake, Nagini (Claudia Kim), whom we have already met in the course of the Harry Potter series. Credence and Nagini are two lost souls that are trying to figure out how to fit in the world, and surprisingly, make a great team.
Other new characters introduced include Theseus Scamander (Callum Turner) and Leta Lestrange (Zoe Kravitz). Both were mentioned in the first Fantastic Beasts film as the brother of Newt and Newt’s previous love interest. Now Theseus and Leta are engaged and both work in the ministry. Theseus in an auror and has a ‘complicated’ relationship with his brother. Leta, we learn, has lived a difficult life full of heartache and ridicule as she endeavors to not live up to her wicked pure-blood relations’ expectations.
Unfortunately, the beasts do not feature quite as heavily in this movie as they did in their predecessor. A few new creatures, however, are introduced including a cat-like creature from China called a Zouwu. Baby nifflers are also an adorable new addition to the fun magical menagerie that Newt collects. Fan favorite magical beasts, the niffler and bowtruckle, make multiple appearances throughout, and are critical to most of Newt’s successes.
There are a few points of confusion and head-scratching in the latest Fantastic Beasts installment that a die-hard Potterhead might be left wondering how certain plot points fit into canon. There might even be one or two things, people say an outright “NO” to, like characters showing up as full-grown adults supposedly years before they were ever born. But overall, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald will leave you excited for what is to come, in shock over the twists and surprise ending, and generally happy to be back home in the Wizarding World.