The magic returns in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald and in this much anticipated sequel to Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them things take a solid left turn and the Wizarding World is left in crisis as the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) escapes and our hero Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is tasked to track him down for the greater good.
Making good on his threat, Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) has escaped custody and has set about gathering followers, most unsuspecting of his true agenda: to raise pure-blood wizards up to rule over all non-magical beings. In an effort to thwart Grindelwald’s plans, Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) enlists his former student Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), who agrees to help, unaware of the dangers that lie ahead. Lines are drawn as love and loyalty are tested, even among the truest friends and family, in an increasingly divided wizarding world.
In The Crimes of Grindelwald things take a much darker turn and director David Yates takes this continuing story in a bold new direction. While his previous film, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, introduced us to a whole new time period of the Wizarding World in the 1920s, here in The Crimes Of Grindelwald, the Wizarding World is dealing with the fallout of the presence of dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Depp) and his escape from MACUSA. Thrown into all of this is our magical zoologist hero Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and once again he embarks on a journey that will take him to new locations and throw plenty of new obstacles and a host of new creatures in his way.
While I had expected Yates to merely follow on in the same direction, I really wasn’t expecting him to changes things up in the way that he did and I very greatful that he took this film in the direction that he did. Taking the setting to Paris, Yates guides us through a new corner of the magical world and gives the film a certain film noir polish thanks to his sepia inspired colour palette and the Art Nouveau styling of his Parisian setting. Sets, costuming, hair and make-up and extensive cinematography really pull you into this exotic European setting and just like all the other corners of the world, Paris has its own distinctive style of magic and you really sense its presence here. I loved the rich textures of the city and all of it pulled me deeper into the narrative that was presented up on screen.
I also believe this film noir, Art Nouveau styling also pulls out the film’s central theme of a world in conflict. While the shadows of the First World War are still being felt, dissension and diversion are in the air and Grindelwald’s escape has many on edge. Yates captures all of this for his audience, and you feel the mounting hostilities amongst our characters as they begin to question everything they have ever believed in. But do not despair for its not all doom and gloom and Newt once more takes some time to attend to his menagerie of magical creatures which feature many of our favourites, such as the devious little Niffler’s, and a host of fantastical new creatures such as the Zouwu, a Chinese lion type beast that gives Newt a good run for his money.
Part of every good sequel is that it should work to grow our characters and that is indeed what we find here. Eddie Redmayne is once again front and center as magical zoologist Newt Scamander and this time we get an insight into how his personality and mind works and how his past relationships have shaped him into the man he is today. This is most pressing with his estranged relationship with his one time love interest Leta Lestrange (Zoë Kravitz) and the friction that they share between one another leads to some very interesting narrative moments.
While The Crimes of Grindelwald certainly has an inherent darkness to it, Newt remains the hopeful optimist of the piece. Far from being your typical dragon slaying hero, Newt is a person who likes to find the possibility in the world and whose eternal belief in the power of goodness inside every individual makes him someone we want to look up to and root for. This is especially present in his search to find the troubled Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller), whom he once tried to help before and who is the fascination of every wizard for his extraordinarily dangerous Obscurus parasite that he keeps hidden from the world.
With a growing film franchise we’re also lucky enough to once again find ourselves in the presence of the great Albus Dumbledore who this time is plaid by the dashing Jude Law. Law’s performance is that of a confident, and supremely intelligent Dumbledore who knows more than he’s letting on and who sees the bigger picture that is at play with Grindelwald. I really liked the confidence that we saw in this younger Dumbledore and although he is already a fully-fledged professor at Hogwarts he is only beginning to develop the sage wisdom that will inform the character that a young Harry Potter will one day meet. Again it is the unexpected moments that I enjoyed here with Law’s Dumbledore and I can tell you that I’m excited to see more of him as we move down the line with later adaptations.
And finally there’s Johnny Depp who makes a triumphant return as Gellert Grindelwald. I still maintain that Depp is one of my favourite actors of all time and he really hits the ball out of the park here. Possessed of a creepy and adversarial intelligence, his performance as Grindelwald reminds me of a rock-god/revolutionary whose commitment to an ultimate vision is a very scary thing to behold. As a performer Depp is someone who imbues his whole being into a character and does everything he can to fall into them and this is entirely present here. As Grindelwald he carries himself with a dark elegance and his cast down eyes will fill you with dread. It’s a great return to form for the actor and I’m really excited to see what the next move is for this dark and dangerous wizard.
Thematically The Crimes Of Grindelwald asks its audience to question everything they hold dear and makes the point that in this divided world everyone must pick their side. The one character who doesn’t hold to any of this is Newt and its his stance as the outlier, who believes in the possibility of an inclusive world where everyone and everything has meaning that gives the film its hope.
And can I also say that you should expect plenty of shocks here as well. While I can’t go into anything without risking running into serious SPOILER territory I will say that the twists and turns come straight out of left field and this ending will leave your heart pounding.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald really changes things up and it’s rocketing good time from beginning to end. It really shakes up the Wizarding World and if you’re a long time Rowling fan then you’ll seriously love this film.
Image: Roadshow Films.