Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is very, very entertaining, even if I’m not always sure I was following it. The follow-up to the 2016 film continues expanding the Harry Potter universe and tying into its characters and future events, and while the sequel adds many new characters and subplots, it also adds so much story that it hard not to imagine it as several films put together. I’m recommending the film because I enjoyed it, but I do think that the amount of material in the film deserved to be either expanded upon or cut down.
Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is sent on a mission from his old colleague Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) to find the powerful Obscurial Creedence Barebone (Ezra Miller), who disappeared after causing havoc in New York. Creedence is also sought by Grindelwald (Johnny Depp), a dark wizard hell-bent on raising a war between wizards and non-magical people.
The four lead characters from the first Fantastic Beasts film, Newt, Tina (Katherine Waterston), Jacob (Dan Fogler), and Queenie (Alison Sudol), are all very good, and seeing them all interact together is definitely one of the film’s best elements. While the ending goes in a direction that doesn’t neccessarily reflect the character development set up for Queenie, the four performers have electric chemistry that makes the film very watchable.
There’s also a subplot featuring Newt’s brother Theseus (Callum Turner), and his fiancee Leta Lestrange (Zoe Kravtiz), whom Newt was once in a relationship with. While the backstory of Leta and Newt is explained very well, Leta doesn’t get nearly enough screen time outside of the flashbacks that set up her character. I also wanted more screen time with Theseus, as the relationship between the brothers is hinted at more than actually being actually seen onscreen.
Jude Law is very good as Dumbledore, giving a charismatic, fun performance that enters the film in the right moments, and Johnny Depp is suitably creepy as Grindelwald. The dynamic between the two characters is felt despite not seeing them onscreen together. I do wish that more was done with the character of Creedence; while he’s the object of much of the film and Ezra Miller’s performance is very good, I wish we got more time to flesh out his character who is struggling with his newfound powers and trying to find a place in the world.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald keeps things moving at a fast pace, and while the film jeeps throwing more characters, set pieces, creatures, and magical action at us, it never loses our attention. This is a film that is definitely suited for those who love the universe and know of its details, and I do think the story may be more clear for me upon repeated viewings. I can’t fault its ambition, and I left the theater with a strong desire to see these characters again and see where this universe goes next. Grade: B-