“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald: is installment No. 2 in the J.K. Rowlings series that further explores the Wizarding World made famous by and that sequentially predates the author and screenwriter’s “Harry Potter” tales.
And while its 2016 predecessor “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” really was all about the title creatures this follow-up uses them more as accessories, focusing instead on the issues plaguing the wizards and Muggles in this satisfying adventure: the struggle for power, a search for identity, and matters of the heart.
In New York City, circa 1927, the Magical Congress of the United States of America is transferring dastardly knave Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) because “it’s time for him to answer for his crimes in Europe.”
To remove all doubt, director David Yates (who, oh by the way, directed the first “Beasts” film, as well as four “Potter” flicks) brilliantly highlights Grindelwald’s gaze with the tiniest sliver of light across his different-colored eyes, taking this pale-faced baddie to next-level villainy.
But Grindelwald is “… very persuasive…,” so this transfer doesn’t go as smoothly as planned, but it does showcase some insanely impressive visuals and the magic that makes these flicks such a treat.
Three months later Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is asking the Ministry to life the ban prohibiting him to travel internationally – y’know, because his briefcase filled with Fantastic Beasts wreaked havoc in the last movie.
Newt will need travel access, because old pal Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) needs a favor.
And no one else can do it: “It has to be you,” Dumbledore assures.
But Newt isn’t the only one on this mission….
Before watching “Crimes” it’s helpful to have seen the first “Beasts” flick and at least familiarize yourself with the “Harry Potter” series. There are familiar faces, places, names and events that otherwise might be confusing.
I was happy to see Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) return as Newt’s Muggle sidekick, once again offering his subtle quips; and Credence Barebone (the always awesome Ezra Miller), sporting a much better haircut than when last we saw him. God bless!
As for the Beasts: Pickett the Bowtruckle is back to lend his talents as needed and to tug at a heartstring or two; the Nifflers (squeee!) still are enthralled with all things shiny while being the most adorable things ever; and we meet the Zouwu, a sort of Chinese New Year dragon critter with cat-like tendencies (watch its eyes light up at the jingle of a simple bell toy).
But the true stars here are the magic and adventure, and “Crimes” delivers both – big time.
From the slow-motion shot of a Niffler popping a champagne cork, to the morphing transformation of one of the major players, to rage-fueled destruction of a building, to the memories and foreshadowed imagery, to the transporting of characters – the effects are seamless and altogether mesmerizing.
You’ll be completely immersed in this Wizarding World because it looks and feels legit.
The sets are amazing, with their old-world aura and larger-than-life scale.
The danger and mystery is intensified with sounds from a hurried and somber orchestral score.
And the story not only dives deeper into defining these characters and relationships, but it begins to connect the dots between “Beasts” and “Potter” and, of course, sets itself up beautifully for the next installment, set for release in November 2020.
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