After two years of speculation and anticipation, “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” finally hit theaters this week. The film is a wildly different chapter in the “Harry Potter” universe than its predecessor, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” but it is equally as exciting.
Set nine months after magizoologist Newt Scamander (the marvelous Eddie Redmayne) accidentally unleashed a briefcase full of magical creatures into 1926 New York City, “The Crimes of Grindelwald” shows Newt shoved into further adventures with international magic. After dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) escapes prison, he sets out to find Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller), the obscurus who was nearly killed in the first film, for reasons initially unclear. This leads the Magical Congress of the United States of America, the British Ministry of Magic, Professor Albus Dumbledore and the mysterious new character Yusaf Kama (William Nadylam) to search for Credence, whose whereabouts are known to be somewhere in Paris.
It should be clear from that last sentence that there is an absurd amount of story in “Grindelwald.” Every scene features a new location with a new person with new motivations and new secrets. Yet the film never becomes muddled or convoluted. I will be the first to admit that the amount of story leads to some pacing issues—there is one sequence in particular featuring Credence and the auror Grimmson (Ingvar Sigurðsson) that dragged on far too long—but the mysteries of the story keep even the slowest parts mildly interesting.
The shining star here, much to my surprise, is Alison Sudol, who returns as Queenie Goldstein. She had very little to do in the first film, but right from her first scene in this sequel, she makes her presence known. She goes through vibrant changes and makes astonishing decisions over the 133-minute running time, many of which will have a lasting impact on the three films to follow.
The other major players are Jude Law, playing the one and only Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, and Johnny Depp as his counterpart, Grindelwald. Both do truly incredible work in “Grindelwald.” Law brings a quirkiness to the role (something that Michael Gambon struggled with as the character in the later “Potter” films), while keeping the professor as omnipotent and manipulative as ever. Depp, on the other hand, tones down his exuberance as the dark wizard, playing more to his role in “Chocolat” than his role in “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” By doing this, he brings humility to Grindelwald, something that is vital for a character so politically seductive.
As far as story goes, J.K. Rowling does not let down. Though she could have cut a subplot or two (to be frank, Nagini has no reason to be in this), the overarching plot is incredibly unique. Some have complained about the film’s low stakes, but I’d argue that the stakes are perfect for a film that is only second in a series of five. Not every hero needs to be fighting doomsday. The most valid complaint against the plot comes from “Potter” loyalists who were quick to point out slight canonical anachronisms concerning a certain professor’s cameo in the film. The word “slight” is key here, as it makes no true impact on the film itself.
The third act of “Grindelwald” is what makes the film such a great addition to the series. With every major character in the same room, the future of the series becomes clear. Sides are chosen, questions are raised and characters are hurt. Then, Rowling tops it off with one of the largest plot twists the Wizarding World has ever seen, and with it comes a whole new set of questions.
Is “The Crimes of Grindelwald” a masterpiece of film history? Absolutely not. It’s nowhere near the quality of something like “Burning,” which is also currently in cinemas. However, it is a “Potter” fan’s dream; the Wizarding World expands in front of our eyes with new characters to become invested in. Importantly, this movie excites me for what’s to come over the next six years.
This is the opinion of Jacob Cornblatt, a sophomore film production major from Gaithersburg, Maryland. Tweet comments to @JacobCornblatt or email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.