First things first: I’m a big fan of Harry Potter. I’ve always thought the world that J.K. Rowling built was amazing and worthy of devotion, primarily because of its imagination and consistency. What the first Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them did was take a piece of that world and expand on what we knew. It stayed internally consistent (e.g. there are Magical people in America, they have a ministry of magic and they call the non-magic people “no-maj”) while introducing us to Newt Scamander, the author of one of Harry, Ron and Hermione’s textbooks, and making it clear why he’s the expert on the eponymous Beasts.
What The Crimes of Grindelwald does is take that depth of our knowledge of the world of Harry Potter, and ask us to look back at a time, 1927, which was as similarly difficult as Voldemort’s return. Grindelwald (a miscast Johnny Depp), known to Potterheads as a friend and partner of a young Dumbledore (Jude Law here), has risen to power. He has followers, but it’s unclear what kind of power he has beyond being a strong wizard and essentially believes in the superiority of wizards and the inferiority of non-magic people. There’s a strong racism vibe throughout the movie (not dissimilar from the various administrations around the globe today) and much of the rhetoric we hear from Grindelwald about wanting to take back their world, and return to earlier prominence, has been said by the U.S. President.
Now, you might be asking, what does our dear Newt Scamander and his new friends from the previous Beasts movie, Auror Tina (Katherine Waterston), her sister Queenie (Alison Sudol), and non-Maj Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), have to do with this Grindelwald fellow? Dumbledore and Newt are friends, and in the previous film, Newt uncovered a magical young man, Credence (Ezra Miller), in New York City wreaking havoc. Credence has made his way to Paris now, bent on finding his birth mother, and Newt has been charged to find him. Grindelwald is also looking for Credence, believing him to be the end of a prophesy (we don’t really get enough detail on what that prophesy might be).
While it’s definitely the darkest of all the Harry Potter universe films, there is so much to learn and understand about standing up to bullies from Newt and Dumbledore. Eddie Redmayne and Jude Law are terrifically cast as mentor and student, bringing a lot of depth to their roles. The female characters are superb throughout, Tina is also looking for Credence, and is angry at Newt. Queenie has followed her sister to Europe with Jacob, with whom she has fallen in love, though their marriage is against the law. A new character, Leta Lestrange (Zoë Kravitz) (unclear how she’s related to Belatrix Lestrange or Narcissa Malfoy), is a schoolmate of Newt and his brother, Theseus (Callum Turner) and now Theseus’ fiancée.
If you’re a fan, or just want a good movie, you’ll dig The Crimes of Grindelwald . However, be prepared to not catch all of the Easter Eggs provided for only true Potterheads.