The “Harry Potter” prequel “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” is a super expensive blockbuster about ... racism, and for this reason cannot be considered as just a merry, escapist amusement movie.
Undeniably, the all J.K. Rowling’s literary and cinematic works bring up acute, moralistic themes, which are presented by means of a classic epic battle between good and evil. Just have a look at gruesome, elitist bigots living in Hogwarts’ Slytherin house, who are crazy about their superiority as pureblooded wizards and witches. Whereas “Harry Potter” saga stroke a happy medium between being intriguing and thought-provoking at the same time, we cannot say the same about “Fantastic Beasts”.
It is bewildering since Rowling is the author of the screenplays for both the “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” and its follow-up, “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.” David Yates, who was in charge of four films in the “Harry Potter” series, is the director of these films, as well. There are a lot of magical things, visual wonders, and a cumbersome amount of characters and plot lines in these movies. “The Crimes of Grindelwald” is much more than merely a prequel.
Inevitably, it had greatly affected the storytelling, which is more tiresome and burdensome than thrilling. Even the mention of the names like Lestrange and short visits to Hogwarts to meet young and vigorous Albus Dumbledore do not help. And the invariably irritable, slightly artificial Eddie Redmayne at the heart of these films does not instill the sense of stability and powerfulness. As Newt Scamander, magizoologist and author of the titular “Fantastic Beasts” tome, Redmayne is all flitty and mumbly, a shtick which is more disturbing than inviting. In spite of the fact that he is an authority on magic himself, he is created to be our guide into this tricky and complex world.
At the beginning of the movie, we see this horrifying dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald who makes off from prison while being conveyed from the USA to Great Britain on a dark and turbulent night. He aims to collect all the pureblooded wizards from around the globe to stir up a riot, take control over non-magical people and govern them – No-Majs, as they are referred to in the USA, or Muggles, as they are known in the British Potterverse. Since the horrifying nature of his dark intentions (and their importance both in the retrospect and nowadays) was not clear-cut enough, we are treated later on to the sight of trains, vast flames and piles of ashes as a petrifying forerunner of what may happen. However, due to Depp, the excessive weirdness, which runs through many of his works, dies down and conversely finds a stillness and a strong, vile depth to his voice.
Newt needs to take time away from his fantastic beasts to stalk Grindelwald at the bidding of Hogwarts headmaster Dumbledore, who cannot do it on his own since he was engaged into an intimate relationship with this now cruel magician. Rowling mentioned that Dumbledore was gay, and the relationship with Grindelwald fleshes out that tantalizing notion, but unfortunately, the script drifts away from delving much further into their affair.
Newt has a potential affair of his own going with the cute but flighty auror Tina Goldstein. But Tina has apprehensions about potential relationships with Newt because she believes that he might still love his classmate Leta Lestrange, the fiancée of Newt’s brother, Theseus, who works for the Ministry of Magic.
But hold on, there is much more to be revealed. Tina’s pleasingly silly sister, Queenie, who is known for mind-reading, comes back with her amiable dolt of a Muggle boyfriend, Jacob. “The Crimes of Grindelwald” fluctuates not only between these various plot lines but also between 1920s London and Paris, which have lots in common in terms of their multinational character.
Eventually, we come to the most important pieces in the storyline related to potent Credence Barebone, who is in quest of his genuine identity, while Grindelwald at the same time tries to find and weaponize him. Credence’s only true friend and defender is shape shifter Nagini, who can transform herself into a big serpent.
Individual moments and images are unique, though: a mobbed circus tent that packs itself away into a cart with the flick of a wand, or a gold sparkling mist that – when scattered in a certain place – sheds light on the conversations and events that happened there. And the fantastic beasts are in fact fantastic.