For one reason or another that I can’t currently recall, I never was a part of the Harry Potter craze. I’ve actually never read one of the books, nor have I seen any of the movies. I’m not sure if it was the fact that the books seemed so much more in-depth that I felt I’d best wait until I eventually read them before seeing the movies, or if the major hoopla surrounding the books just caused me to shy away from them. Whatever it may have been, my love for fantasy, science fiction, magic and a permanent case of childlike wonder – especially when it comes to movies – this revelation definitely shocks people when I inform them of this fact.
So when tasked with reviewing Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, I knew this was a world I could no longer shy away from. Now, I’m not sure if it’s blasphemy to Harry Potter fans to watch these movies without even knowing what a Muggle is, but that’s the hand I was dealt, and I welcomed it. Well, I’ll be honest, I welcomed it hesitantly. When I have to review a sequel, I often go back (if time allows) and revisit its predecessors so that everything is fresh in my mind and I’m ready for what lies ahead. So, while I wasn’t going to go and watch all the Potter films, I did settle in to watch Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them so that I’d have some idea of what was going on.
And boy, what a magical world I was introduced to! Unlike Harry Potter, the Fantastic Beasts films are adapted by J.K. Rowling from a book of magical creatures that she wrote for charity. So, these films are firing out of her imagination directly to a screenplay, and I can easily see where the love for Harry Potter comes from with the richness she brings to the world and its characters here. Now, it may sound silly, but I think when I do go on to read Harry Potter from here I’ll have a greater appreciation for them that I don’t think I would have had I just jumped aboard the hype train all those years ago.
Now, while I digress, I think it’s good to know that these films do work for those who haven’t seen any Harry Potter films. I will guarantee that those who have read the books or seen those films will likely gain more from the Fantastic Beasts series, as I’m sure it’s ripe with Easter eggs and nods to the future since these are prequels that take place long before the events of those films; but even if that may be the case, I still enjoyed the two films thoroughly and the magical world they’ve introduced me to.
Now, Crimes of Grindelwald was originally set to be the second film in a trilogy, but it’s been revealed that Rowling now has five films planned for the series to bring it to its conclusion. Be that as it may, Crimes of Grindelwald definitely harnesses the darker tones and themes that usually encompass the second film in a trilogy and it does so quite well.
While the evil Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) was more or less only referred to here and there throughout the first film, the revelation that he’d infiltrated the Magical Congress of the United States of America and actually been working from within to find an Obscurus (basically an incredibly powerful, dark magical parasite that tends to kill its hosts at a young age) the entire time was a big one at the climax of the film.
This movie picks up six months later, with Grindelwald being transferred back to Europe to pay for his crimes there. That doesn’t go according to plan, as Grindelwald escapes and goes on the hunt for Credence (Ezra Miller), the young man who harnesses the power of the Obsurus that was thought to have been killed at the end of the first film.
Now, I could go on and on, as this movie does a good job of adding more layers to various characters that were introduced in the first film, while also introducing new ones. The heart of the story still centers around Newt (Eddie Redmayne), as he tries to find his proper path in life – and love, when he finds out that Tina Goldstein (think somewhat the one that got away) from the first film is in Paris also looking for Credence. So with Newt returning as the core of the film, it allows Rowling to build the world around him through past experiences and relationships that the viewer is introduced to often through him.
Now, I don’t know much about Harry Potter, but you can’t go all these years and not know bits and pieces, so when Newt meets up with his old teacher, Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law), I was aware that he was a major part of the Potter saga, and this addition to the story is obviously huge for fans. On top of that, Law is a fantastic actor and really makes Dumbledore a character I want to learn more about. Now if only there were some way I could do that…
Jokes aside, Crimes of Grindelwald definitely feels like a middle chapter in a series. The film doesn’t stand on its own at all, but that’s not really a knock at it. Some may dislike that it ends just as things start to get really, really interesting, and others may be excited that it goes this route, clamoring for what’s to come down the road. For me, I thought this was an interesting route to go, and since Rowling is obviously a trusted storyteller, it’s clear that she’s allowed herself to take the time she needs to flesh out these characters and this story the way she feels will suit it best.
That said, the film does have a lot going on within it to the point where it does feel like there’s almost too much to take in at times. This may be the novelist inside Rowling trying to fit as much into a film as she can before it bursts, and that she definitely does here; but there are a number of character moments and story elements that would benefit from a few extra emotional beats instead of constantly moving along to the next major reveal or plot point that never seem to be lacking here.
While I do think this series is clearly being made for fans of Harry Potter who want to know more about this magical world and those within it, don’t be afraid to jump in here if you’re behind in the curve. There are some aspects of the rules of magic and certain scenes that may have left me scratching my head for a deeper meaning since I’m not up to date on the series, but as a whole it’s strong, entertaining storytelling with a wonderful visual director in David Yates at the helm, and I’m eager to see where Rowling takes the series next.
This film is incredibly vibrant and visually stunning in 4K, really jumping off the screen at times. While darker and more muted than the first film, it still looks vibrant when it should, with the magic always looking splendid. And while the Blu-ray film looks as strong as it can in that format, I’d highly recommend the 4K format for a movie like this, which really lives and dies off the beauty and belief of the world and creatures it brings to life through its wonderful visuals. The musical score, sound effects, dialogue and audio mix are all superbly handled, really making this a film that comes to life before your eyes and ears on the screen.
J.K. Rowling: A World Revealed – This feature is 10-minutes in length and sees Rowling talk about bringing this world to life, trying to adapt to writing the story as a script and being forced to constantly revise her writing to make it possible. She also talks about wanting to avoid the clichés or notes she may have already touched upon in Harry Potter and just making a more complex world all around. Yates and Producer David Heyman also chime in since they’ve been along for the theatrical ride for quite some time with Rowling.
Wizards on Screen, Fans in Real Life – This is a 20-minute feature that sees Ezra Miller and Evanna Lynch both talk about how they’re huge fans of the series, we see them practicing and viewing scenes for the first time, and it’s just a really fun bonus for fans of the film and franchise overall to see those involved being so passionate about the world that so many love.
Distinctly Dumbledore – This feature is just under 10-minutes in length and sees Jude Law, Yates, Heyman and Costume Designer Colleen Atwood all talk about bringing the younger Dumbledore to life, making sure it’s done properly and how the character relates to his future self in the Potter films.
Unlocking Scene Secrets – This is a massive, six part feature that’s 49-minutes in length, covering various major scenes from the film, breaking them down from a visual effects standpoint, acting, art, designs…this is the biggest feature on the disc and one that fans of the series will definitely want to delve into to learn more about the process overall.
Deleted Scenes – There are also 10 deleted scenes for those who may be interested in watching them.
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Presents Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. Directed by: David Yates. Written by: J.K Rowling. Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Johnny Depp, Jude Law, Dan Folger, Ezra Miller, Katherine Waterston, Zoe Kravitz, Alison Sudol. Running time: 134 Minutes. Rating: PG. Released on Blu-ray: Mar. 12, 2019.
Tags: Crimes of Grindelwald, Dan Folger, David Yates, Eddie Redmayne, Ezra Miller, Fantastic Beasts, J.K. Rowling, Johnny Depp, jude law, Katherine Waterston