Review by J.T. Johnson
I’m a little late getting to this review, so I had already seen the Rotten Tomatoes score for “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” before I finally got the chance to see the film. I was surprised how low the score was, but I understand that score a little better after having seen the movie. As a fan of the Wizarding World, I did like this film but I must also admit to being more than a little confused by the time the credits rolled.
This is because the movie has two things that are technically going against it. One is that it is the second part of what has been promised to be a five-part series. This means that the movie was always going to end in a cliffhanger in order to set up the next film in the series. Knowing this going into the film, I was fine with there being a cliffhanger.
The second problem, though, is the nature of the cliffhanger. Of course, I won’t spoil it here but I will say that it was the thing that confused me the most. The cliffhanger, if true, changes a big chunk of the original canon set up by writer J.K. Rowling, the same person who is also writing the screenplays for these films.
I have one main theory that I think is going to pan out ultimately, but I’ll just have to wait and see if that’s the case when the third film is released in 2020. Again, I can understand there being a little bit of frustration from audiences that this film feels like it is nothing more than a middling chapter.
That aside, though, I found the overall film to be rather enjoyable. Yes, it is a darker chapter and I would definitely say that “The Crimes of Grindelwald” is “The Empire Strikes Back” of the “Fantastic Beasts” series. Things have to get darker before they get better and man, is this film dark for a fantasy family movie.
The story is set nine months after the events of the original film. Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) is being transferred when he escapes the authorities and begins amassing an army of “pure blood” witches and wizards who think that they should be ruling the planet instead of hiding in it. Meanwhile, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is restricted to England after the events of the first movie.
He has gone back to taking care of the animals under his charge when he gets an unexpected visit from Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol) and Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), the Muggle whose memory they had wiped at the end of the first film. They are together, but Jacob doesn’t want to get married because he knows that it would get Queenie thrown into jail if their marriage was discovered.
Not long after this, Newt is contacted by Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) and he requests that Newt do everything that he can to save Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller), the wizard who now has complete control over the hateful Obscurus. Dumbledore wants Newt to find Credence because he knows that Newt won’t try to kill Credence first and will try to save the kid.
The parallel that Grindelwald is the Wizarding World’s Hitler is well established in this film. He wants a pure race of wizards in charge, he claims that his crimes are all for the greater good and his arguments are able to attract those that normally wouldn’t join his cause if the Wizarding World didn’t have so many real restrictions. This leads to one of the film’s twists that I really didn’t see coming, but made sense when I stopped to think about it a little bit more.
The performances definitely help sell the movie. Redmayne is fantastic as Newt once again and with Law, they couldn’t have cast a better actor to play a young Dumbledore. Fogler is once again one of the highlights as Jacob, a man that has a little bit more to do with the story other than simply being a non-magical person who is in awe of everything he’s seeing.
Finally, Depp does a good job as Grindelwald and you actually think that he believes in this new world order that he is trying to create. He’s completely evil and shows this to be the case many times over, but he does make some good points about how oppressive the Wizarding World can be at times.
Finally, the special-effects are once again top notch and that is no surprise considering how much money Warner Bros. puts into these films. There’s plenty of action and, thankfully, plenty of beasts that Newt uses to assist him in his new adventure. Of course, the absolutely lovable thief known as the Niffler returns and once again steals every scene that he is in.
The movie is simply another act in an overall story and it does get bogged down a little by having to set up more future stories than doing its own thing. Still, it raises some intriguing questions for where this series will go in the future. By the end of the film, I found that I’m still quite curious to see where Rowling will take the next chapter of this particular Wizarding World series.