Get Ready for a Whirlwind Adventure in “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald”
MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD: PROCEED WITH CAUTION
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald opens in New York to beautiful choral music (more on that later!). The year is 1927, six months after the end of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and in a daring escape, Dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald is at large once again.
After this opening scene, we are welcomed home with the familiar Fantastic Beasts logo and theme from the first movie. Throughout the film, composer James Newton Howard was able to weave his previous work on the franchise into new themes and a new score, incorporating choral music reminiscent of Nicholas Hooper’s work on Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
We soon visit the familiar Ministry of Magic, Newt’s case, and Paris’s version of Diagon Alley, including the Circus Arcanus. The French Ministry of Magic is even more breathtaking than the gorgeous images we have been treated to previously, and it is so interesting to step into a new part of the wizarding world. Everything is dark, but this only serves to complement the dark tone of the film. Although the beasts are present, including Matagots, Nifflers, Pickett, and a zouwu, they take a step back from the first film, and this is no whimsical adventure. The beasts remain somewhat relevant, though, and affect the outcome of the story. Let’s hope future films in the series will still be deserving of the main Fantastic Beasts title!
Unfortunately, there is a lot of back-and-forth between locations and subplots, leading to a complex storyline that may be difficult to follow for big fans of the series, let alone the average viewer who doesn’t live and breathe the wizarding world. We counted 15 times that the film jumped between major locations (not just set pieces), and with the “core four” returning, along with new or more prominent roles for Credence, Dumbledore, Grindelwald, Leta, Nagini, Nicolas Flamel, Theseus, and Yusuf Kama, we have a dozen characters to keep track of. At times, it felt like the film tried to fit in too much, and we wouldn’t have minded cutting out a few of the subplots (Grimmson, Nicolas Flamel, Bunty) in order to give more focus to the others (Queenie, Dumbledore, Tina).
Speaking of Dumbledore, we love Jude Law as a young Richard Harris embodiment of the character. He truly has a twinkle in his eye (though he’ll tell you that’s CGI), and he is lighthearted – and slightly odd – despite the seriousness of the role. Although pretty much everyone ended up in Paris because of Credence, who plays a larger role in this film compared to the first, the Fantastic Beasts series is an exploration of Dumbledore’s past and what makes him the man he is when we meet him outside of the Dursleys’ doorstep in 1981.
Our main characters are all paired off in this film: Newt and Tina, Jacob and Queenie, Credence and Nagini, and Leta and Theseus. However, for our core four, their relationships are rather different than they were in the first film. Although Newt and Tina don’t share much time together on-screen, their chemistry is more palpable. On the other hand, the few minutes that Jacob and Queenie spend together are unfamiliar; are these the same characters we saw before? Queenie seems to have undergone a drastic change, going so far as to magically drug Jacob, take him to Europe, and announce their marriage, all without his knowledge or consent. As in the first film, Jacob, once he is set right, provides much of the humor in the form of quippy one-liners, and his love for Queenie shines through, so easily forgiving of her transgressions.
By the end of the film, we are left with more questions than answers: How did Credence end up in Paris in the first place? Why is Dumbledore keeping track of his whereabouts? How did Leta and Theseus end up together when they seem so different? What happened between Leta and Newt? Who is Tina working for? What point did a canonically inaccurate McGonagall cameo serve? Why is Nicolas Flamel important? How are they Apparating on Hogwarts grounds?
We hope these questions will be answered in the third, fourth, and fifth films in the series!