Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is a fun adventure packed with Easter eggs galore, yet it ultimately suffers from some glaring issues.
This article contains spoilers for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.
Eddie Redmayne continues to do a brilliant job portraying Newt Scamander, an unconventional, quirky leading man who is equally awkward and charming.
In a film that is overcrowded with too many characters receiving too little screen time and development, Newt is one of the only characters who receives a consistent amount of focus and undergoes a compelling arc. He is insistent that “I don’t do sides” as he tries to remain focused on his work and personal goals. Eventually, he chooses his side, realizing that staying neutral is not an option in a world threatened by Gellert Grindelwald. This is an important lesson in a universe that promotes standing up against injustice and intolerance. Meanwhile, Newt continues to have wonderful chemistry with Dan Fogler’s Jacob Kowalski. Their scenes taking care of and working with Nifflers, Bowtruckles and other magical creatures continue to be a delight.
That being said, Newt, Jacob, and the Goldstein sisters Tina and Queenie formed a unique and likable dynamic in the first film, which makes it disappointing that the four of them don’t really share scenes together in the sequel. They were supposed to be the new core group of this series, yet they’re separated for pretty much the entire duration of the film. It’s also a disappointment that even though the search for Credence and the mystery of his identity drives so much of the movie’s plot, there’s nowhere near enough screen time for his character.
Of the newly introduced characters, Leta Lestrange shines the most. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them teased the importance of Leta and her relationship with Newt, and the sequel didn’t disappoint on the follow-through. Zoë Kravitz plays Leta as a complex individual whose intricacies are explored through flashbacks that offer significant insight into her character. She’s both compassionate and fierce, all the while tortured by a past mistake, difficult family history, and a struggle to fit in. In the Hogwarts flashbacks, it’s refreshing to see a Slytherin bullied by Gryffindors instead of the other way around. It’s also beautiful in these scenes to see how she and Newt bonded over being outsiders.
Despite the different roads they’ve taken as adults, the strength of that bond is still there as Leta and Newt have instant chemistry in their first scene together at the British Ministry of Magic. Thanks to Zoë Kravitz’s performance and writing that actually does her character justice, Leta’s ultimate sacrifice is able to emotionally resonate with audiences. As a Slytherin and Lestrange, it would’ve been easy to make her an avid Grindelwald supporter, but instead, the movie went a much more interesting route for her character.
The biggest downfall of the movie, however, is Johnny Depp’s performance as Grindelwald. Casting Depp in this pivotal role was already problematic, but it’s only made worse by the fact that he fails to make Grindelwald a charismatic and convincing individual. He is supposedly a master of seduction, yet there’s not a single point where the audience feels swayed by his arguments or personality.
This largely ruined Queenie Goldstein’s storyline. For almost a year, many fans accurately predicted the direction her character would take in this story. The problem is it’s almost impossible to buy into her shifted allegiances as Grindelwald never comes off as being very persuasive or logical. If fans aren’t convinced, it’s difficult to believe Queenie is convinced that Grindelwald can really create a world where she can marry Jacob without consequence. Beyond Queenie’s storyline, Grindelwald simply isn’t menacing enough. Depp often seems bored and never fully invested in bringing this enthralling character to life.
Connections to the Potterverse
The film brims with many connections and Easter eggs. Some are well incorporated and genuinely fascinating. Grindelwald references “For the greater good,” which is the motto he and young Albus Dumbledore believed would justify their grand schemes. This phrase was later carved into Nurmengard, which would eventually become the prison where Grindelwald would spend the rest of his life and where he would one day be killed by Voldemort. Audiences had the treat of seeing Nurmengard for the first time in the days when it wasn’t a prison but was still Grindelwald’s castle and base of operations.
Fans also got to meet Nicolas Flamel for the first time, and there’s even a glimpse of the Philosopher’s Stone in his home, which is the source of his immortality. Jaime Campbell Bower — the same actor who played Grindelwald when he stole the Elder Wand from Gregorovitch in the flashback in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 –a lso plays young Grindelwald in the scene where Dumbledore looks into the Mirror of Erised.
While those Easter eggs and connections worked, others felt much more forced and threaten to break continuity. Perhaps the most problematic is the appearance of Minerva McGonagall at Hogwarts. Even though she isn’t born until 1935 and the film takes place in 1927, she is somehow a professor at Hogwarts not only at this time but also back when Leta Lestrange and Newt were students at Hogwarts.
Fans were divided over learning Nagini was the Maledictus played by Claudia Kim, some ecstatic to receive a Nagini origin story while others felt like it was a contrived and problematic connection. Nagini is there but hardly receives an origin story. She serves little purpose other than having a close relationship with Credence. If anything, the movie only convolutes her story as it’s baffling to think that a character so compassionate and defiant of Grindelwald and what he stood for would later become so loyal to Voldemort.
The end reveal about Credence’s supposed identity also feels like a connection that simply doesn’t work. The idea that he’s actually a secret Dumbledore sibling is an intriguing idea in theory. When actually thinking about Credence’s age in 1927 and the timeline of when Dumbledore’s parents died and the fact he’s never been mentioned before in canon — even when Dumbledore seemingly “comes clean” to Harry in Deathly Hallows concerning the true story of Ariana — the twist seems more like a gateway to infinite plot holes. It’s more likely that Grindelwald is lying about Credence’s identity, using the reveal as a way to manipulate Credence into destroying Dumbledore once and for all.
In certain senses, The Crimes of Grindelwald is a fairly decent sequel to Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, continuing to dive into the adventures of the delightful Newt Scamander and delivering the payoff for the Leta Lestrange tease while also offering up some fun connections to the large Potterverse. In many other areas, particularly where Grindelwald and certain forced connections are concerned, the movie falls short of its enormous potential.