At once captivating and confusing, Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald set up an interesting story line that occurs before Harry Potter was born — at least in the Harry Potter universe.
The second of five films, Crimes follows Newt Scamander, played by Eddie Redmayne, on his illegal journey to Paris, where he faces Grindelwald again — who is recruiting supporters throughout the magic realm with promises of freedom.
For those not familiar with the world of magic in the Potter universe, people who practice magic are supposed to keep a low profile among humans, and marriage between magicians and humans is forbidden.
Grindelwald played by Johnny Depp, seduces followers by making them believe that he is their ticket to not only freedom, but superiority over not only other magicians, but over the human realm as well.
Like many fascist rulers that rose in the twentieth century in fact and in fiction, Grindelwald’s political ruse draws in quite a few followers, but his power hinges on “winning over” Credence Barebone, played by Ezra Miller, whose parents are a mystery, but whose immense power hangs on the fine line between good and evil, and whose emotional stability is questionable.
While watching the film, I was wishing I had watched the first film again, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, so that I could be reminded of the names of characters, and where they landed at the end of the film, so that when the second installment showed, I would not have been so confused, trying to remember who was who and what happened to them all the last time we met.
I am somewhat ashamed to say, I did not read any of the Harry Potter books, but I feel compelled to read the Fantastic Beasts series, and even make a map of the characters, how they know one another, who is related to who, and who is in charge of what. I even felt compelled to read the Potter books, because in this film, there are younger versions of the older characters that show up in the Potter series.
As with most in-depth series of fantasy films, for some people, it is easy to get lost in the names of unfamiliar people and faces, but for its movement, visuals, and difference from the Potter films, I think Crimes of Grindelwald warrant a trip to the theater.
Director David Yates and his crew do a near spotless job of creating the worlds through which the characters travel, giving mythical creatures and inanimate objects a life and character of their own, seething behind the main characters and threatening to break through the plot at any moment.
Manohla Dargis, co-chief film critic for The New York Times, shared my confusion about the plot line, its many divergent points, and its many characters, saying that while J.K. Rowlings writing brings the world to life from the page, and intentionally sprinkles literary allusions throughout her Potter and Fantastic Beasts stories, Crimes of Grindelwald seems more like a finale to the series than a long rise to the climax of the fifth movie.
I am intrigued nonetheless, and recommend those who love fantasy, magic, and the exploration of other realms and worlds, to not only see the Fantastic Beast films, but to pick up the books so our are familiar with all the people, places and creatures that pop to live on the movie screen.