Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
A delightful return to the wizarding world of J.K. Rowling awaits in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, the rare sequel that might be better than its predecessor.
While that definitely wasn’t the case with the perfectly OK second Harry Potter film, The Chamber of Secrets, a more developed conflict and characters, plus a villainous Johnny Depp (no longer hiding behind a Colin Farrell mask) and the introduction of Jude Law’s Dumbledore combine for steady glee that pairs well with this universe’s growing darkness.
Confidently directed by David Yates, the shepherd of this cinematic realm since The Order of the Phoenix, The Crimes of Grindelwald tracks the nefarious movements of Depp’s titular villain, a familiar figure who just wants to make the wizarding world great again.
Unable to “move against” him for tantalizingly mysterious reasons, Dumbledore — currently serving as Hogwarts’ Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher — tasks his former pupil, magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne, back in his most charming form) with confronting the dangerous wizard.
Part of the assignment also involves the search for Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller, Justice League), the powerful Obscurial who was thought to have perished in the series predecessor, a mission in which practically all of the other main characters partake.
As Newt hops from 1927 New York to London, then Paris, taming and befriending visually amazing creatures along the way, he attempts to convince his auror crush Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston, Inherent Vice) that he’s available and worthy of her love — a charming wrinkle that’s again a treat to follow.
He also reunites with comic-relief muggle Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler, Balls of Fury), who’s given a slightly reduced role compensated by the his witch girlfriend Queenie (Alison Sudol, Amazon’s Transparent) and her nicely complex adventure navigating a society that doesn’t want them to be together.
Further adding to the story’s richness are the struggles of Leta Lestrange (Zoë Kravitz), whose flashbacks to her Hogwarts days with Newt inform her contemporary angst and its overlap with Credence and the whole circus surrounding him.
Engrossing as the character development and storytelling are, the main attraction is the consistent level of magic and wonder that the world’s creative creatures and visuals bring to each scene. Other than the Star Wars universe, there’s no set of films that consistently delivers such an elite degree of imagination.
Grade: B-plus. Rated PG-13. Now playing at AMC Classic, Biltmore Grande and Carolina Cinemark
(Photo: Warner Bros.)