The quiet anticipation regarding any new Wizarding World material is deeply palpable to both those who care and those who mock the ones who dare to dream. Fortunately for the Harry Potter loving masses, the franchise is so lucrative that there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. With the release of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, Potter-fantatics are given something every fan desperately craves: new, un-invasive material that directly corresponds with beloved canon.
Opening a few months off from the first movie, we see Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) sitting in prison at the American Ministry of Magic, awaiting trial for his many crimes. As a surprise to no one except maybe the English Auror sent to acquire him, he quickly escapes in a magnificent feat due to his loyal followers. Jump ahead a few months later, Grindelwald is at large.
Newt (Eddie Redmayne) is in trouble with the Ministry for essentially ripping up half of New York with his illegal creatures, and his only ally remains Dumbledore (Jude Law). Rather than accept a position within the ministry to work with his brother to find Credence (Ezra Miller) before Grindelwald can, Newt insists on keeping neutral. Unable to travel and at a crossroads in his life, he suddenly finds himself in the company of old friends, and an urgent need to travel to Paris.
Aside from the new characters we’ve come to love in the Wizard World, this time around we’re given a few beloved favorites in the form of Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall (Fiona Glassgot). While Dumbledore is utilized, and honestly well done by the well-worn actor, the introduction of McGonagall is confusing. At the time that the movie takes place, the head of Gryffindor technically shouldn’t exist, breaking original canon put in place by Rowling within the Pottermore universe. This isn’t the only inconsistency, though it is glaring, and while there has already been outrage from die-hard fans, there’s so much magic to enjoy that we cannot solely engage is the mistakes.
It doesn’t take an eagle-eyed fan to see the mythos of the Wizarding World playing out so wonderfully and delicately. Moments like seeing a young Dumbledore with the Elder Wand, and an older Grindelwald now in possession are commonplace, yet so subtly magical you cannot help but smile to yourself. Truly, this is not a Wizard movie for the fair-weather fan, but rather an intricate detail in the backstory of the Wizarding World that we all know and love.
As with any part of story-telling, it seems that Rowling found it pertinent to bring in current and historical themes to her story, reminding the audience that evil cannot combat evil, just as hate will always breed more hate. Set in between World Wars l and ll, and before the Wizard Wars brought about by Voldemort (he’s not alive yet, it’s fine), we’re faced with that in between. That eerie calm when we hit the eye of the storm. We know it’s not over, but everything is at peace for just a moment. By the end of Crimes of Grindelwald, we’re sitting squarely on the edge of that eye, about to be wrecked by what’s to come. It’s almost soothing, knowing these characters can and will face the pain we feel every day.
While the story holds up, and will ultimately be a treat for all those who remain open to it, there are several performances that need recognition. Zoe Kravitz kills as Leta Lestrange (oh yes, those Lestranges) sophisticated, subtle, stunning. Redmayne’s Newt Scamander remains charming and easily accessible, while Dan Fogler’s Jacob Kowalski is a bright light as the team’s resident No Mag. Even the young Newt (Joshua Shea) turned heads with the perfect Eddie Redmayne impersonation.
Unfortunately, there were also a few disappointments along the way. Ezra Miller’s Credence, while clearly well thought out, felt like he was phoning it in. He copy/pasted his first performance in Fantastic Beasts and forgot that his character had learned, and while maybe not grown, had definitely changed. Depp as Grindelwald was less than enthusiastic, and while it is still a wonder he wasn’t kicked off the franchise after the allegations against him by his ex-wife, his inability to create new characterizations leave the audience wanting less.
While we still aren’t completely sure of what Grindelwald’s crimes were and will be, we now have insight into what ultimately leads us to the story of Harry Potter. Though it will surly take another ten years, and at least two more spin-offs, eventually Rowling (and hopefully David Yates) will bring us back to the beginning.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is now playing in theaters everywhere.