If you are someone who sees an owl and automatically think that someone is getting their letter to Hogwarts you might be aware of the new Harry Potter prequel films series, Fantastic Beasts. Since Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them hit cinemas in 2016 we have traded our desire for a pet Owl to wanting a Niffler. So, with the new film Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald just getting to cinemas how does it stack up against the first?
Before we talk about the new film we have to cover a lot of ground from the first Fantastic Beasts film, which should go without saying means there be spoilers ahead. If you have not seen the first film and unless you are able to self Obliviate after reading, we do recommend you stop here and go watch Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Go ahead, we will wait.
Right. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, as mentioned is the prequel to the Harry Potter books. Intended to be 5 films in total they are set just after World War I near the end of the great depression, some 70 years before Harry Potter got his letter to Hogwarts. The first film centred around Newt Scamander, Wizard and Magical Beast expert who just landed in New York City with a suitcase full of exotic animals including one very large Thunderbird intended to be released in Arizona.
Through a series of accidents, Newt’s case is accidentally switched with a Muggle/No-Maj named Jacob with his creatures being released to wreak havoc throughout the Big Apple. At the same time, another more murderous creature is on the loose which is blamed on Newt. Newt attempts to recapture his lost creatures with the help of Jacob as well as American Wizards the Auror (Magic Cop) Tina and her sister Queenie who is smitten with the muggle Jacob.
Still with us? We are not done yet. Over the course of the film it is revealed that the murderous creature is actually an Obscurus (the result of a Wizard who does not get trained and not aware of their powers) which is being tracked down by another Auror who turns out to be a dark wizard named Grindelwald (who had recently been terrorising Europe before going into hiding).
In the end – Grindelwald is captured, the Thunderbird is released and all of New York who saw the closing battle had their memories erased including Jacob. *phew* This brings us up to Fantastic Beasts 2 set some 9 months (more or less) later in England/Paris of 1927.
With Grindelwald being imprisoned for the last 6 months the film opens up with a jailbreak as Grindelwald evades the US Ministry of Magic as they attempt to transfer him to Europe to stand trial there. Grindelwald decides to return to Europe anyway in pursuit of the Obscurus aka Credence who is on a mission of his own to try and track down his birth parents and learn his real name.
Unlike the first film which was very much about Newt and his fantastic beasts this film continues the plot of the first with Grindelwald’s uprising and weaving it into the Pottermore universe that we know. With Fantastic Beasts intended to be 5 films in total (according to JK Rowling), the Crimes of Grindelwald definitely feels like the expositional part of the arc, with a lot of detail and backstory being thrown at you very quickly over the first film being more focused on Newt’s menagerie.
Coming in at a little over 2 hours long the film is chock full of Pottermore references like Portkeys, Nicolas Flamel (creator of the Philosopher’s stone from the first Harry Potter book/movie), Boggarts, Unbreakable Vows and more than one return to Hogwarts complete with its musical score. The big thing is that we also get to see a Young Dumbledore, played by Sherlock Holmes/Captain Marvel’s Jude Law, as the Defense Against the Dark Arts Teacher at Hogwarts long before Tom Riddle and clearly a player in the magical world even influencing the events of the first film.
While consistent with the quality of special effects that we expect from Harry Potter films and with the same director continuing from the first film, the Crimes of Grindelwald does feel slightly different. Very much focused on the backstory setting up future films there are no Niffler hunts or frozen Central Park lake scenes as the film jumps from each character to fill in the whole story.
So should you go see it? Fantastic Beasts 2 or The Crimes of Grindelwald has a lot going on and no time to explain. It is the Empire Strikes Back of the Pottermore universe in more ways than one. If you are someone who has read all the books, seen the movies and even know which house you have been sorted into then you will have no problems following what is going on. But, if not you might want to binge the prior 23+ hours of films to get up to speed.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is in Cinemas across Australia from today.