Fantastic Beasts 3D: The Crimes of Grindelwald

In Cinemas Now

Who will change the future?

Eddie Redmayne returns to take on Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) in the second instalment of J.K. Rowling's fantasy adventure series.

Gellert Grindelwald has escaped imprisonment and has begun gathering followers to his cause—elevating wizards above all non-magical beings. The only one capable of putting a stop to him is the wizard he once called his closest friend, Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law). However, Dumbledore will need to seek help from the wizard who had thwarted Grindelwald once before, his former student Newt Scamander (Redmayne).

Like all Pottheads, I am a lover of canonical whakapapa. You might be delighted to know, as I was, that the grandson of Newt Scamander, Rolf, marries Luna Lovegood, for instance. Or that Nymphadora Tonks is Bellatrix Lestrange’s niece. It’s with the same fascination I love to trace the British royal family tree to see how many branches loop back into the main trunk (Queen Liz and Philip are basically cousins, you guys).

So it’s for this reason I was disappointed that the first Fantastic Beasts entry, enjoyable as it was, had few recognisable names. No glimpse of Neville’s grandparents on vacation, or a teenaged Professor Flitwick.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is much better for scratching that itch. In fact, the greater your knowledge of the complicated family lines of the Potter universe, the better.

The new and familiar get to mingle more freely in the second entry thanks to new locations—Paris and other parts of Europe, bringing us closer to Hogwarts and names we recognise (if not their young faces).

The taciturn magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is thrust once more into the ill-fitting role of hero, this time with the guidance of a young Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) who thankfully subscribes more to Richard Harris’ (Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone) gentler interpretation of the character rather than his inappropriately shouty successor, Michael Gambon.

Newt is reunited with his No-maj baker friend Jacob Kowalski, as well as sisters Queenie and Tina Goldstein. Of special note is Daniel Fogler as Kowalski, ostensibly the comedic relief of the franchise (who garners the biggest laugh of the film with a single word), but who delivers a moving, full-range performance.

One of my favourite things about the Beasts films is that they’re as much for the animal-mad kids that want to be zookeepers and marine biologists when they grow up as Potter fans. The beasts are incredible, the full realisation of CGI and AI and 3D rendering and all those wonderful things we already take for granted. Imagination literally runs wild across the screen.

Newt’s affinity for his beasts had me biting my bottom lip far more often than any terror being wreaked by the evil Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp). But that’s because I was one of those marine biologist kids, I suppose.

Weirdly my hatred of Johnny Depp works for the film—movie baddies are meant to be loathed, right? But I still despised every moment he was on screen and wished for a different actor in the role. Abuse allegations aside, there are better actors with less preposterous British accents.

The film is set in the 1920s and judging by previous literature, parallels with Gellert Grindelwald’s and Adolf Hitler’s rise to power aren’t incidental. With that in mind, some of the scenes involving his rallying of new followers are genuinely chilling.

It’s starting to pack some of the darker emotional punch of the original Potters, just on that satisfying knife’s edge where you can enjoy the fantasy universe but also start to feel genuine grief and fear for the characters (I’m still howling about Fred Weasley). Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald gave me much more reason to hope for that special, immersive experience than the first one did.

BBC

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An unfocused, overwhelming and ultimately numbing sprawl that seems to drag on forever.

Empire (UK)

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The second chapter in JK Rowling's five-part story, it's a film stuffed with characters, big moments and impressive spectacle but still feels bizarrely underpowered.

New York Times

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Rowling has surrendered to her maximalist tendencies and so cluttered up the story that you spend far too much time trying to untangle who did what to whom and why.

TimeOut (New York)

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With its callbacks to the Potter universe and a lovely eye for detail, The Crimes of Grindelwald has bags of intermittent charm and a warm familiarity. But too often, it feels like a beast that's been overburdened.

Los Angeles Times

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It offers up dazzling feats of sorcery and realms of wonderment and manages to conjure the very opposite of magic.

The Guardian

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The architectural detail of JK Rowling's creativity is as awe-inspiring as ever.

Variety (USA)

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"Fantastic Beasts" assumes a similar level of engagement with its swollen dramatis personae, without allowing the time or putting in the work to earn it.

Hollywood Reporter

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That the film remains enticing despite its evolving, still-pallid hero speaks to Rowling's storytelling strengths.