David Yates (director)
16 November 2018 (released)
20 November 2018
The second of five films, in the prequel series to Harry Potter written by J.K. Rowling, we continue on from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, following Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and his Tardis like (bigger on the inside) suitcase containing a zoo of magical creatures. He has just assisted in the arrest of the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) and the Obscurus, Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller) that had been terrorising New York, was dead.
The peace lasted for all of 5 minutes, as we start the film with Grindelwald escaping captivity and continuing his plan of pure blood wizard dominance over humans, whose plan revolves around trying to find a now alive Credence (never really explained how he survived). We are soon introduced to Hogwarts professor, a young charismatic Dumbledore (Jude Law), who tries to convince Newt to travel to Paris and save Credence from Grindelwald and the ministry who are on the hunt to kill him. The film leans heavily into racism and leadership with the world on a knife edge in a period between two World Wars.
The main characters, from the first film, return. Newt is still a charming, nervous lead that Redmayne has become brilliant at playing. Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) who gave a proper muggle perspective of the wizarding world for the first time continues to do so brilliantly. Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), Newt’s love interest and his main reason to go to Paris, now an Auror but still plays the same unsure of herself wizard and Queenie (Alison Sudol) Tina’s telepathic sister is as odd as ever. This film doesn’t really build on the characters from the first but just adds more. Along with Grindelwald and Dumbledore we are introduced to Newt’s brother Theseus (Calum Turner) and Leta Lestrange (Zoe Kravitz) who was Newt’s dream girl back at Hogwarts who is now engaged to Theseus. Finally we have the character that annoyed a lot of people from the trailers, Nagini (Claudia Kim) a circus “freak” who can turn into a snake and due to a blood curse she will one day be stuck as a snake, the same snake that will be linked to Voldermort.
Depp’s portrayal of a power hungry racist leader is surprisingly very good, the character allows him to be as odd as ever but also with a dark twist which we haven’t really seen him do in recent years. The few scenes Law had were brilliant; he really takes the character that Michael Gambon had portrayed so well and made it his own. The rest of the new cast had the problem that they never really had enough screen time for you to be invested in them, they would pop up for a few minutes and then be gone again.
David Yates comes back for his sixth Potterverse film and this has helped keep the theme stay the same, dark and gritty, with a glimpse of hope but knowing there is hardship to come. The difficulty is that with this film we are well aware that there are three more to come. It therefore chooses to answer very little and you might be left feeling that you have spent over 2 hours watching half a story. But this is a common theme of Rowling’s writing, answer one question but leave you asking three more.
The main problem this film has is that it relies on the audience knowing everything that has happened (or will happen) in the timeline, lots of nods with little explanation, which is fine if you are deep in the law of the universe but not if you are a mere muggle.