The second Fantastic Beastsmovie out of a total of five, this slice of JK Rowling’s Wizarding World has impressive CGI effects, a starry cast, those fantastic beasts… and a surprising lack of excitement.
Picking up a few months after the events of the 2016 original – with scriptwriter Rowling and returning director David Yates expecting us to remember exactly where they left off – the movie opens with murderous wizard Grindelwald (Depp, complete with bleach-blond 80s-Billy-Idol haircut) making a daring escape from prison, intent on gathering wizards to his supremacist cause.
Newt (Redmayne), meanwhile, is stuck in London (his magical travel pass revoked thanks to his previous adventures in New York) when he is visited by Dumbledore (Law) who asks him to sneak off to Paris to track down gifted mage Credence (a muted Miller) and get to him before Grindelwald does.
This main plot takes a surprisingly long while to get going (shouldn’t there be some urgency to Newt’s mission?), and in between new characters are introduced, relationships are forged and broken, and things get so complicated that one character has to explain what is going on by using the visual aid of a family tree. The promotional campaign asks for audiences to ‘protect the secrets’, but you’ll be so focused on working out who means what to whom that you won’t remember half of them anyway.
Amongst the muddled plot strands that never completely come together there are some highlights, however. Redmayne has settled nicely into the role of awkward Newt, and here he gets not one but three potential romances with the return of auror Tina (Katherine Waterston), an interesting friendship with former schoolmate Leta Lestrange (Zoe Kravitz) who is engaged to Newt’s brother, and the quiet affections of his devoted assistant Bunty (Victoria Yeates).
More interesting – and not given enough screen time – are the relationships between muggle Jacob (Dan Fogler) and tortured Queenie (Alison Sudol), and Credence and his friend, maledictus Nagini (Claudia Kim), who will, of course, one day become Lord Voldemort’s venomous ally.
While it’s great to meet a young, vibrant Dumbledore (and Law nails it), catch glimpses of a pre-Harry Potter Hogwarts, and see the hidden magical world of Paris, ultimately the slow storytelling drags the movie down and doesn’t take us much further than the previous film. There are some hints to what Rowling’s endgame could be and a cliffhanger ending that is visually stunning (ooo! blue flames!), so we can only hope that Part Three is where Newt, Grindelwald and Dumbledore’s story really hits its stride.
Is Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
This is a 12A certificate film in the UK and may be too dark for children under the age of 10.
Younger children may find Grindelwald scary to look at.
There are scenes in which a family are killed (though it happens off camera) that may upset sensitive viewers.
One character can turn into a giant snake which may frighten very young viewers.
In one scene, vicious cat like creatures surround the heroes and they are quite nasty-looking.
There is a deadly battle and a prison escape in which characters are killed that may not be suitable for very young viewers.
If you like this, why not try: