It’s been a looong two year wait to finally see the continuation of Newt Scamander’s adventures in the wizarding world. I remember my husband and I coming home from the midnight opening in 2016 absolutely full of excitement and adoration for this new part of the franchise and complaining “I can’t believe we have to wait two whole years to find out what happens next!”
Last night we went to the midnight opening of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (yeah, we’re die-hard geeks; who needs to go to the cinema during civilised hours?!) and all I can say is: it is most assuredly worth the wait. Don’t worry if you haven’t seen it yet though – this review will be completely spoiler free.
The film takes place one year after the events of the first Fantastic Beasts movie and sees the wizarding world in turmoil at the hands of dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald. Newt finds himself heading to Paris at the request of Albus Dumbledore and joining him in the city are Legilimens Queenie Goldstein, her auror sister Tina, muggle Jacob Kowalski, Newt’s war-hero brother Theseus and his old schoolfellow Leta Lestrange. Everyone is pursuing slightly different goals but the obscurial Credence Barebone, reeling from the events of the first film, is at the centre of all of them.
Rather than functioning as a separate little story as each of the Potter films were, The Crimes of Grindelwald feels like a chapter of a larger over-arching story. There’s a lot of follow on from film one, but also a lot of unanswered questions by the end, and some set-up for film three.
Be warned though, this film is also much darker than film one – it’s much more Half-Blood Prince than Chamber of Secrets. It is seriously dark in places but considering it’s about the rise of the wizarding equivalent of Hitler, that feels a wholly appropriate tone. There are some real gut-wrenching moments, particularly towards the end!
I can’t say much more without giving away plot-points but here is a general summary of what I loved most about the film.
- Newt Scamander – he remains my absolute favourite Potterverse character (sorry, Sirius!). The sheer goodness of his heart, his earnestness, his total apathy to power and ambition make him such a unique leading character. Hurrah for socially awkward, introverted heroes! I loved his awkward romantic ineptitude and his humorous interactions with various different creatures.
- His relationship with his brother – Newt and Theseus had a really enjoyable dynamic. I was so worried that he was going to be another Percy but instead you get the feel of someone who loves his brother to death but wishes he would just toe the line once in a while! Some really good moments between the two early in the film and then again later on. I am an absolute sucker for happy familial relationships in fandoms so I can’t wait to see more of them!
- Jude Law as Dumbledore – He. Was. Perfect. He managed to capture the duality of the man; the mischievous twinkle in the eye as well as the wise, regretful sage underneath. The emotive scenes referring to his bond with Grindelwald were perfectly done.
- The Soundtrack – John Newton Howard knocks it out of the park again with some truly gorgeous themes. I hope he gets the award nominations he deserves for it.
- Jacob Kowalski – I just love this character and Dan Fogler does a superb job of making him the comic relief in one moment, the wide-eyed marveller in another and then somebody who you feel for with every ounce of your being.
- Even the good can fall to dark ideologies – JK Rowling’s script perfectly demonstrates how even characters that we love and root for can be seduced by dark messages, and how easy it is to manipulate the vulnerable.
There wasn’t really much that I could say that I didn’t enjoy about the film, but there are a couple of moments that screw around with the canon where I felt it wasn’t needed. In the Hogwarts flashbacks we see an old favourite who was a joy to see again, but realistically should not ever have been there in the time period. Secondly, there is a huge, huge reveal at the end of the film which – if true – completely alters a very huge part of one character’s backstory. Personally I’m thinking it’s a manipulation but if it is true, it feels like a really forced, needless plot twist.
As a stepping stone to film three, there are a couple of characters I felt got a little short changed – Leta Lestrange in particular; her history with Newt was really glossed over – but I’m hoping there will be more backstory stuff in the later films. I also want to see more of Nagini and Bunty.
Overall, I think I’d give 4/5. Second viewing tomorrow to help me pick up all the things I may have missed.