Eddie Redmayne returns to take on Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) in the second instalment of J.K. Rowling’s fantasy adventure series. The film opens nationwide tomorrow with advanced screenings happening tonight in select cinemas.
Compared to the first film, Leonie Hayden felt more satisfied with this latest entry.
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.
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.