Like in Beasts 1, the magical creatures themselves appear in mostly irrelevant but nonetheless enjoyable side-scenes. Newt must ride a wayward kelpie (underwater horse made of seaweed) to give it some ointment, tame a rampaging Taowu (Chinese dragon with smiley face), and avoid a herd of Matagots which protect the Paris Ministry (evil cats with alien eyes). Old favourites pop up, too, with Pickett the Bowtruckle and some baby Nifflers stealing several scenes throughout. Sure, it’s padding, but it’s what we come for.
The new human creatures don’t fare quite as well. Law as a young Albus Dumbledore is smooth and charming and somehow not ‘our’ Albus, Claudia Kim’s ‘Maledictus’ is alluring but barely in it and Zoe Kravitz, as Leta Lestrange, glimpsed in a photo in the first Beasts, is potentially the most interesting character in the film we’re never given the chance to really get to know.
Meanwhile favourites from the first film Newt, Tina, Queenie (Alison Sudol) and Jacob (Dan Fogler) are at least given space to grow. Queenie and Jacob are particularly adorable both as comic relief and the movie’s only truly happy loving couple, at the start at least…
And as for Depp’s Grindelwald – an unpopular casting choice among fans after reports surfaced alleging domestic violence against his ex-wife Amber Heard – well, at least the film doesn’t try to make him in any way likeable. If there was ever any doubt as to how truly evil Grindelwald is, it’s allayed in the opening scenes when he executes a toddler and offs his own pet gremlin for being too needy.
For a film with an awful lot going on, then, Crimes Of Grindelwald is surprisingly light on actual narrative or incidents that push the action forward. And unlike the first five Harry Potter films at least, it doesn’t really work as a standalone movie. Instead this is very much part two of five, an adventure which poses more questions than it answers and never reaches any satisfying conclusions in any of its many plot strands.
For Potter fans there are Easter Eggs and references galore, with classic characters hinted at and multiple flashbacks filling in bits of magical dynasty history linking back to the wider Potterverse. More of a ‘Wizarding World Experience’ than a complete film in itself, Crimes Of Grindelwald will at least leave audiences desperate to know what’s going to happen next. And with a surprising reveal at the end, fans will be scouring the internet looking for gems like a Niffler in the royal mint…
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