This latest film in the series nicely begins to tie in the Harry Potter links but can be slightly overwhelming with all the new characters it contains.
Much darker in tone in comparison to the first Fantastic Beasts film, The Crimes of Grindelwald also seems a much more settled and self-confident film than the first, allowing the plot to twist and turn to great effect – even if the number of characters and their backstories can at times get slightly in the way of the main plot.
As the title suggests, this latest instalment is much more focused on Grindelwald and his attempts to seize control of not only the wizarding world but also the world in general, while gathering followers and trying to find Credence to use him for his own means. So where does Newt Scamander fit into all of this? Well he is also sent to find Credence but by Dumbledore who believes “he is in danger or a danger to others” – with of course the help of his beloved Nifflers and companions from the first film.
In terms of sheer imagination and thought that J.K.Rowling has put into the story and each character’s backstory is impressively immense and detailed but at times director David Yates can seem to struggle to keep up with how everyone is interlinked – particularly towards the middle of the film, which can make it a bit of an effort for the audience to keep up with as well.
However, despite this fans will be pleased to see that some of the ties left unexplored in the original Harry Potter series explored in a little more detail – including Dumbledore’s relationship with Grindelwald (which was in fact an important element with regards to the Deathly Hallows in the original books but left out of the final films). It picks up on the subtle details and starts to intertwine them with the Harry Potter series quite nicely – even bringing in family names that fans will be familiar with such as Travers and Lestrange.
It is fast and action packed as well as a few unexpected twists that the audience and fans of the first Fantastic Beasts film don’t see coming that leave the film on a cliff hanger as Credence begins to edge closer to finding out who he really is (that is if Grindelwald is telling the truth – which is very much doubtful). But while the overall tone is much darker and serious there are still moments of light relief that make the audience smile, keeping them invested throughout.
Performance wise, the addition of Jude Law as Albus Dumbledore was initially one that I was slightly sceptical about – could he really pull off the quirkiness but practical minded Dumbledore that we knew from Harry Potter? The answer is yes most definitely. His is a performance that is both quirky in the way Dumbledore handles situations, but tinged with sadness and regret – particularly highlighted when he looks into a certain familiar mirror. It is a part that is sure to develop over the rest of the series and I’m looking forward to seeing how Law develops his interpretation of the character further.
Elsewhere, Johnny Depp as Grindelwald is an interesting mixture of menacing and charming. He offers an understated performance in this film that is only set to grow in the further instalments, capturing the audience’s full attention to great effect – as the final major speech he gives towards the end of the film proves. Eddie Redmayne is as reliable as ever as the awkward Newt unwittingly drawn into ‘picking a side’ when he would rather be looking after his creatures, while Dan Fogler as Jacob, Alison Sudol as Queenie and Katherine Waterston as Tina also make a welcome return.
Yes it could be said that this is a film that was designed specifically for Harry Potter fans in mind but maybe it will encourage those unfamiliar with the series to start where it all began – in the books. As a personal fan, I delighted in all of the smaller links to the original series, piecing the story effectively together to tie it all up nicely. Objectively, it is an action packed ride that will certainly confuse in places but keep you on the edge of your seats while it all gradually comes together.
By Emma Clarendon
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is out on DVD now.