The Crimes Of Grindelwald is a fantastic-ish beast
Two years after the first film in J.K. Rowling's latest Wizarding World franchise, the second instalment entitled Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald has finally returned with a moodier, darker tone and a rich, layered story.
Rowling and director David Yates had announced that the Harry Potter spin-off movies would comprise five films and expand a sequence of events between the years 1926 and 1945.
While the first in the series, Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, was accessible and had a somewhat similar Harry Potter feel to it -- a lighthearted story, funny, with many innocent moments of the young wizard discovering new magic, figuring out how to ride a broom or discovering new colourful creatures -- the new film is an entirely different beast altogether.
The Crimes Of Grindelwald offers greater stakes, and drills down into the dark world of corrosive evils, intolerance and corruption to provide us a build-up of storylines to fuel the final three sequels.
The film begins in 1927, shortly after the events of the previous film. Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) finds himself back in London after his fracas in New York, and is banned from leaving the UK by order of the British Ministry of Magic. But with the help of a young Professor Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law), he sneaks over to France to thwart the menacing wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp), a dangerous anti-muggle leader, and at the same time, search for Credence (Ezra Miller), a destructive wizard Grindelwald wants to recruit.
While introducing many new characters, The Crimes Of Grindelwald also sees the return of beloved characters from the first film -- the young wizard and Newt's love interest Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), her sister Queenie (Alison Sudol), and the hilarious Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), whose lively character, again, steals every scene he's in.
And the romantic subplots still shine throughout the new film. Jacob and Queenie's antics offer a nice comedic release, while Tina and Newt's awkward "Do you care about me, or not?" flirtations are still delightful and pleasant to watch.
The visuals in The Crimes Of Grindelwald are gorgeous, and probably even better than its predecessor. From the stunning CGI work on many new exotic magical creatures found inside newt's Mary Poppins-style wizard suitcase to the hugely impressive set designs, including the 1920s atmosphere of three different cities -- New York, London, and Paris.
Another highlight is, of course, that Harry Potter fans will get to see scenes that take us to the magical school of Hogwarts, long before Harry Potter studies there. Back when we see the young teacher Dumbledore still giving lessons in class.
The best character in the new film belongs to Grindelwald. While lately we got tired of seeing Johnny Depp's over-the-top Jack Sparrow theatrics, it's refreshing to see him portray a creepy villain this time with his bleached-blonde hair, sunken cheeks and haunting mismatched eyes. Sharing similarities with Lord Voldemort, Grindelwald's character is an instantly fascinating character to follow, or to hail as the latest amazing villain in the Harry Potter universe.
Although there are a few good twists and revelations, as well as some great action, one of problems with The Crimes Of Grindelwald is that it doesn't stand out enough in its own right. After watching the film, it feels like a set-up for the future pay-off down the line. And you could easily forget all the complex plot twists while waiting for the third instalment to come -- and that's not going to happen until the end of 2020.