This is not a kids' movie. It’s dark, and seriously good.
By all accounts, the first 'Fantastic Beasts' spin-off did not live up to the original 'Harry Potter' series, but this second instalment is the goods. It is also very timely, both opening in the week we commemorate the First World War armistice, and the more general political context (ahem, Trump).
Set in the pre-World War Two era, the 'Crimes Of Grindelwald' opens with the transfer of the titular baddie from American into European custody. The film then unfolds in Europe, with Nazi parallels. Where 'Harry Potter'’s Voldemort was very much a fantasy, comic book-type of nemesis, 'Grindelwald'’s bad guy draws much more on reality, and the types of rhetoric that have led to war and mass extermination in the past. Indeed, for many of his followers, Grindelwald's arguments are as rational as they are appealing. This is one reason that this is very much not a kids' movie, the themes are adult, as are some of the more visceral scenes.
Quite a few of the same story lines and plot devices that were key in the 'Harry Potter' series make a return in this movie. At the beginning, the film felt a little repetitive because of this, but the story quickly shakes this off and makes any similarities seem new again. Sometimes, the addition of the magical creatures seems forced, as if they aren’t really needed in the scene or story, but are plopped in because they’re in the title of the franchise. At other points, they’re completely charming and add a real brightness to this very visually dark and foreboding story.
The acting is first class, and Jude Law in particular is simply wonderful as a young Albus Dumbledore. There is a lovely continuity of character between Jude’s version, and the older, more wise Dumbledore of the 'Potter' books. Jude has a lot of fun with the character, and plays him with nuance, especially in the scenes that hint at his true relationship with Grindelwald. The kindness he instils in the plot is sorely needed, as many of the other characters are slightly malevolent or dour. Johnny Depp’s Grindelwald is very well played, despite the controversy surrounding his casting. The New York characters also inject a lightness and humour that is very welcome. The one off note was perhaps Nicolas Flamel, as his costume could have done with more refinement. As everything else is so polished and convincing, Flamel is quite jarring.
The film sets the audience up nicely for the next instalment, where other plot lines such as Nagini’s fate will hopefully be fleshed out more fully.
All in all, this was a great movie. It is dark and menacing, and surprisingly pleasurable to watch.