Maria McQuillan, Arts & Entertainments Co-Editor.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: AKA When will Newt get time to finish his book?
I’ll admit firstly, that when I first saw the original Fantastic Beasts, I wasn’t incredibly overwhelmed by it. That’s not to say that I didn’t like the film: it was just so different from the original Harry Potter films that I wasn’t sure I was at times watching the same series. And in many ways, that is the strength of the first film: it is about a very different hero, and because of that (despite it being a little slow with its plot at times) it is still easily the most charming film in the series. Newt as a protagonist is one that is easily likeable: he doesn’t care about politics, he just wants to continue his work in documenting magical beasts.
The Crimes of Grindelwald brings us into much more familiar ground. From the beginning of the film, with Grindelwald’s escape from his imprisonment, the pace is dramatically faster. We also have a lot more storyline introduced in this film, and the switch in locations between London, Paris and New York (with the majority of scenes in Paris) really adds to the lore of the series. Paris is a wonderful setting for the film, as seeing Wizarding Paris is a real treat. The visual effects and costuming in this film are certainly the best in the entire series so far. It’s a beautiful film to watch.
The film also expands the wizarding world of 1927 with many more characters, new and old. Redmayne continues to build upon the strong characterisation of Newt that he started in the first film, and his unwilling hero is a joy to watch. I enormously enjoyed watching Jude Law as Dumbledore. He has proved himself the perfect younger Dumbledore, and we can see from his portrayal how he would grow into the Headmaster and leader of the Order of the Phoenix in the Harry Potter series. He’s meddlesome, charismatic and melancholic, but in very different ways to his older self. His sexuality is alluded to in a rather interesting way in the film and I’ll be interested to see how they deal with this further in the next film. He is one of the highlights of the film, and his interactions with Newt and other characters create interesting dynamics in the film that I can’t wait to see more of in the threequel.
Leda Lestrange, played by Zoe Kravitz is another excellent addition. The dynamics between her, Theseus (Callum Turner) and Newt are well portrayed. Her introduction in the film, and the way her interaction with Newt (and his subsequent meeting with his brother) is filmed in a rather interesting, if odd, way. It’s as if for a quick few seconds we are seeing it from Newt’s perspective, the camera even moving like his head is moving. It’s a rather disorienting switch, but gives the audience a shock, rather like the one Newt gets when he sees them. It’s not the only moment of unusual camerawork in the film, and these moments do break up the traditional camera angles we are used to in blockbuster films. I hope they continue this in the next film as they really enhanced the emotion of the scenes they were utilised in.
The original cast of the first film Tina and Queenie Goldstein and Jacob Kowalski all return (played by Katerine Waterson, Alison Sudol and Dan Folger respectively) and I thoroughly enjoyed their exploits in this film. Queenie and Jacob’s storyline, in particular, is devastatingly well-written and a breakout moment in the film. Tina and Newt have some wonderfully charming moments in the film, continuing their “will-they-won’t-they” romantic storyline, providing some of the best humour in the film. Jonny Depp, of course, plays a much more leading role in the sequel, and I was surprised at the change in his character. He’s a lot more muted in this film: his character speaks less and is less dramatic (read: less Depp-ish) which helps to make him a more menacing villain. It seems the writers and/or Depp paid attention to the criticism levied at him from his last turn as Grindelwald. Whilst I still think he was a poor choice for the part, his Grindelwald is greatly improved in this film.
Credence (Ezra Millar) and Nagini (Claudia Kim) provide us with some of the most controversial scenes in the film and ably carry some of the most important scenes in the film and the series thus far. I imagine they will divide fans even further after this film considering the impact they have upon the canon in the series.
Overall, The Crimes of Grindelwald is a welcome addition to the series as it not only builds but improves upon the first film successfully. An anachronism in the film annoyed me along with some bending of the canon of the series but I will reserve judgement for the next film considering how well J.K Rowling and David Yates are setting up this series. I might forgive them (but I probably won’t). Regardless, I can’t wait to see what the next film brings us.
Director: David Yates