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Return to Hogwarts in “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald”

David Eckstein

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Courtesy of fantasticbeasts.com

It’s time to return to the the world of magic with “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.” At the outset,  the main villain Grindelwald (Johnny Depp)–who Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) captured in the climax of the previous film–is imprisoned in America and about to be transported to Europe. The action launches immediately and rarely dips. Like every dark wizard in the Wizarding World, Grindelwald plans to gather followers to his cause of wizard-kind domination. In an effort to stop Grindelwald, but unwilling to face him, Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) enlists the help of Newt. Along the way old characters return, loyalties are tested, and Newt enlists the help of more fantastic creatures than you can chuck a niffler at.

As a fan of Harry Potter, I was concerned going into this film. How could J.K. Rowling juggle so many subplots in only two hours and thirteen minutes?  After having seen the film, I can exhale. Not only do the subplots intertwine expertly, just as in the Harry Potter stories, but Rowling treated us to many Harry Potter easter eggs throughout. As a Potter aficionado, I love how the film interplayed the story in the wizarding world environment–especially a return to Hogwarts. There are a good few dozen times where a character either produces magic or comes across a magical creature in a different setting, and each time it is creative and original. David Yates’ direction shines as he showcases this world with its phenomenal cast in the forefront.

The actors, as usual in this franchise, perform wonderfully. Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander excels at playing the socially awkward intellectual who wants to do the right thing, especially when he works off the likes of Dan Fogler as Jacob Kowalski. All the other actors perform their roles admirably. From Ezra Miller’s disturbed Credence Barebone to Jude Law’s charismatic Albus Dumbledore (who I wanted more of), the actors in this film do more than hold their own.

The actor who most concerned me going into this film was Johnny Depp. It’s not that I have anything against the actor, many of whose films I enjoy. It’s just that, after reading the books and envisioning Grindelwald as a villain comparable to Voldemort, Johnny Depp wasn’t the first casting choice I would’ve expected. I am grateful to say that I was wrong. Depp’s rare understated performance had me saying, “This is Grindelwald.” It’s too early to tell if he’ll rank up there with Ralph Fiennes’ sinister Voldemort, but I can see a lot of people liking this performance and coming back to see more of him in the future. I will.

As far as negatives, people going into this film have to be familiar with this world and all the characters from the past films in order to follow and fully enjoy it. Which is not to say it’s impossible to understand, but if you haven’t kept up with story–especially the first Fantastic Beasts movie–chances are you’ll be lost. To nitpick a little, it felt as if certain elements and characters are squeezed in either for fan service or to set up future sequels. It’s not overwhelming and doesn’t ruin the film for me, but it feels apparent as you watch that the elements and characters are meant to jumpstart the next few movies, while also juggling an intricate plot.

While I can’t say that it ranks up there with some of the best Harry Potter films, whose narratives were more streamlined and less crowded, I’d be more than happy to return to this film and appreciate it for exploring and building a world we just can’t get enough of. Go grab your wands, dress up in your Hogwarts house uniforms and see for yourself.

Rating: 3 out of 5 sails

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Return to Hogwarts in “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald”