I am…a Potterhead. I own two sets of the books, reading each book of the series at least twice. I’ve seen the movies multiple times, either on Blu-Ray or when they come on cable. The only thing that I haven’t done yet is go to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida or go to London (trust me, it’s on the list). With that being said, it should come to no surprise, that I was going to be watching this movie the week of its release.
As a fan of the amazing world that J.K. Rowling has created and being an inspiration for myself as a writer, I can say that I enjoyed the magic returning to the silver screen again, but as an overall movie, it missed the mark. I enjoyed the first movie in this prequel series, but disappointed that this second one could not build upon the momentum its predecessor had.
After the events of the first film, the powerful dark wizard, Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp), is held prisoner by MACUSA and being transported back to London to answer for his crimes. After escaping captivity, Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) enlists the help of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) to find Credence (Ezra Miller), who survived his ordeal in New York as an Obscurial. Dumbledore feels that Credence is crucial to Grindelwald’s plans, putting him on the Ministry of Magic’s radar and pleads with Scamander to do all he can to protect him.
From the start, this movie is beautiful. Despite its dark tone and setting, every moment is visually appealing – from the weird and wondrous new creatures and elegant costumes to the fog banked spires and cobblestones of 1920s London and Paris. The magic only increases as we travel over the mountains and come back home to Hogwarts. This is all credit to J.K. Rowling’s imagination and knowing her fans.
Newt is paying for his New York city adventure by bring blocked from traveling by the British Ministry of Magic. We also go deeper into Newt’s personal life as we are introduced by his former Hogwarts flame, Leta Lestrange (an enchanting performance by Zoe Kravitz), who is engaged to his older brother, Theseus. It’s not until the magizoologist is tasked by Dumbledore to travel to Paris and he is reunited with friends, No-Maj Jacob (Dan Fogler) and New York witch Queenie Goldstein (who took a big step back in this sequel), that he joins the search for Credence. Credence is on a personal search of self-discovery and looking into his family, joined by a human Nagini (yes, the same snake that Voldemort had by his side in the original Harry Potter series, played by Claudia Kim, bringing as much humanity as she can to the role).
Another positive is Jude Law. The casting of this handsome man as the younger Albus Dumbledore. This man can act. I wanted more screen time with him. When the initial casting of Law, he wasn’t what most fans saw when you think of future headmaster of Hogwarts. It was so sad that he didn’t get more time in the movie. He was more of the chess player, making moves against Grindelwald, than getting into the action at all. We do find out why later in the movie, but seriously…we need more Jude Law.
With this movie came another controversial casting: Johnny Depp as Gellert Grindelwald. I wasn’t the biggest fan of this casting and his reveal at the end of the first film didn’t go over well for me. In this sequel, Depp does a decent performance as the charismatic dark wizard but it was difficult to take him seriously with Depp’s over-acting and over-eccentric portrayal. Overall, he is competent, but the script didn’t leave him with much to work with. Persuasive but never fully showing it. Maybe in the next movie…
This film is… well, a lot. Rowling piles on the mythology, backstories, and subplots, the plot feels confusing as we get deeper into the 134 minute run time. It’s hard to determine what plot to really focus on. Director David Yates, a veteran of the Potter-verse who helmed the final four Harry films and the first Beasts in 2016, does his best to hurdle and cut a path through the entwined storylines to keep the audience invested. The special effects were a big stand-out for me along with finally seeing the adults get to have some magical fun other than the school kids. This movie could have benefited from more action along with more Grindelwald (it is titled the Crimes of Grindelwald, you know.) Understanding that this movie is only a part of a planned five-film series, this could have done a better job in establishing itself as a standalone film.
Again, I really enjoyed this movie but I hope the next installment is better and I won’t have to resist tweeting J.K. Rowling to barrage her with questions.