The Fantastic Beasts films are a strange cocktail – on one hand, they try to recreate the magic of the original Harry Potter films but on the other, there is absolutely no way to deny the fact that they are stories meant to piggyback on the success of the earlier films, rather than provide any unique entertainment value on their own. The Crimes of Grindelwald, the second film in the franchise, has more of the same concoction of ‘magic in the real word’ levity, but it is way grimmer and darker, a tone that works in fits and starts, but makes for an ultimately unremarkable movie.
Those who watched the previous film would of course know that the big bad Grindelwald was revealed in the finale and sent to prison. The second film is pretty straightforward – the villain has escaped prison and we are once again put in the shoes of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) as he teams up with his buddy Jacob (Dan Fogler) to track down the dark wizard. A young Dumbledore (Jude Law), who seems to have some history with Grindelwald, is particularly interested in putting him back in prison as the mystery behind Credence (Ezra Miller) continues to waft as a side plot.
Now, if you are a fan of the Potter films and even the previous one, you will find yourself enjoying almost every single element of The Crimes of Grindelwald. It has the same nervous stuttering physical comedy of Redmayne, more of the giant set pieces with lush CGI and swoopy impossible camera angles, a couple of fun action sequences with the usual light and sound magic that you expect from the Potterverse, and so forth. This is a film targeted specifically to its audience, not really looking to expand its reach. It is also fairly good looking, thanks to the sprawling production design and the cinematography, even if the colours are more muted than in the previous installment. And if you were in any way disappointed by Michael Gambon’s portrayal of Dumbledore post Azkaban, you will be happy to know that Law is absolutely perfect in the role, oozing unexpected warmth in the midst of plot and aesthetic coldness.