Strictly for fans? Find out!
Just a heads up: I’m not completely down with the Harry Potter lore -having only read the first few Harry Potter books. Thus, my views on this current entry in the prequel series are from the perspectives of a movie buff trying to get the craze and fuss of these recent magic-laced films.
With that said, Fantastic Beasts 2: The Crimes of Grindelwald focuses less on the “crimes” bit and more of the fantastical sorcery-heavy “building the blocks of future films” trope that sequels in the middle tend to do. Just like how director David Yates finishes the Harry Potter series with his Deathly Hallows directorial works, he plays the architect in bridging this prequel gap with foundations leading up to possibly a third and fourth film.
There aren’t any major surprises from a narrative and technical standpoint, but what I ended up watching in the span of 2 hours is entertaining enough to justify Warner Bros. keeping at it with these Harry Potter universe prequels from a viewpoint of a wizard who’s really into animals.
The story is about the first film’s protagonists Newt Scamander, the Ministry of Magic’s Theseus, Tina Goldstein the Auror (think magician police), and many others in pursuit of one Grindelwald (played Johnny Depp) and Creedence (played by Ezra Miller), the latter having the Obscuras -ie some dark power which is important in the Harry Potter universe that’s laden with dark family secrets. It’s so important that Grindelwald crafts an elaborate plot to befriend Creedence and even rally wizards to join his cause for an all-wizard world. Unfortunately, the climax of the plan is probably saved for the next film or so because we only get to see the fireworks and calamity that follows.
Other key players in this magical Tour de France is Leta Lestrange, Theseus’ fiancee who has secrets of her own, mind-reader Queenie Goldstein who isn’t sure which side she’s on since she’s dating Non-Mag Jacob Dan Fogerton, snake woman Nagini, and French-African wizard Yusuff. Honestly the latter two are there because representation? Because they only were there for a short few scenes and nothing else.
Yep, just think of Fantastic Beasts 2 as a bridge film that answers some questions while opening up more, catering to its progressive fans who like their lore and Harry Potter narrative to be knee-deep in references and big picture plot stuff.
Let’s focus on the good parts: this film’s budget is put to good use into immersing even non-fans who will be dragged by their significant others who read through all the Harry Potter volumes. From the bits in Paris to even Newt Scamander’s abode, even counting the many critters featured on the film’s runtime like the giant-as-heck Zouwou and the tiny nifflers and treefolk, Fantastic Beasts 2 is easy on the eyes.
Say what you will about Eddie Redmayne being typecasted and all, but his awkward-yet-charming demeanour helps keep the film go by in an entertaining and insightful fashion. Behind his mannerisms hide a genius magizoologist who might as well be a detective. A Pet Detective, you might say, minus the funny faces & grossout humour. That hasn’t changed from the first Fantastic Beasts but at least there’s a bit more fleshed out with a seemingly one-note character trope. We get to see him deal with his brother who stands for everything he hates, sees him in his element a lot of times, and even reconnect with Tina after some uncontrollable misunderstanding.
Johnny Depp and Jude Law do their best in fulfilling their respective evil villain/mentor figure roles with adequacy; not quite a breakout performance, but serviceable given the bogged-down source material. Still, fans get to see Albus Dumbledore in his prime when he wasn’t sitting on his headmaster’s chair all day.
In fact, this film does a great job at being a sequel right after the first film, that there isn’t much development to be had character-wise. Sure, there’s a mini-arc involving Leta and her ancestry, as well as the bits with Creedence chasing after answers with the snake lady.
Fans will appreciate the easter eggs and narrative beats, but they may not appreciate the long-windedness of certain key scenes where Grindelwald tries to seduce other wizards to the “dark side”. Perhaps the callbacks are way too detailed for non-fans.
Creedence Clear Water
Is this film a decent bridge between the first and whatever yarns Warner Bros wishes to spin out of a show featuring fantastic beasts and wizardry? Yes, it’s still entertaining and watchable, but perhaps the focus on the narrative could be a little less dense.
It still doesn’t do much to move the main arching plot along. However, the returning cast still shines, the new ones play their parts decently, and the visuals and fantastical atmosphere still captivate non-fans like myself to at least be invested. At least before all the references and obscure characters like the immortal faux-Saruman wizard pop up as a deus ex machina of sorts. There are tons of easter eggs and callbacks for Harry Potter and JK Rowling fans to love here; just don’t expect this film to make a convert out of you.
FINAL RATING: 60/100
P.S: Stay tuned for a future breakdown of the sequel later this week, this time from an actual Harry Potter/JK Rowling story analyst.