Reviewed by: Charity Bishop
Differences and similarities between fantasy magic and real witchcraft and sorcery
What is the Occult? Answer
Sorcery in the Bible
|Featuring:||Eddie Redmayne … Newt Scamander
Katherine Waterston … Tina Goldstein—a promoted Auror of MACUSA (Magical Congress of the United States of America)
Jude Law … Albus Dumbledore—a professor of Transfiguration at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and an extremely influential and powerful wizard in the British Wizarding Community
Johnny Depp … Gellert Grindelwald—a powerful dark wizard seeking to lead a new Wizarding World Order
Zoë Kravitz … Leta Lestrange—from a historically wealthy and pureblood family famous for the Dark Arts
Dan Fogler … Jacob Kowalski—a bakery owner and veteran of World War I
Carmen Ejogo … Seraphina Picquery—President of MACUSA
Alison Sudol … Queenie Goldstein
Ezra Miller … Credence Barebone
See all »
|Producer:||Heyday Films [Great Britain]
See all »
Warner Bros. Pictures
Prequel: “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” (2016)
Potterheads all over the world rejoiced when best-selling author J.K. Rowling continued her adventures in the Wizarding World with a set of new cinematic stories, set decades before the events of Harry Potter. The second film, though more disorganized than the first, focuses on the rise of a dark power and the unlikely band of heroes who come together to stop it.
After months in the American Ministry of Magic’s Dungeons, the infamous wizard Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) boards a magical coach drawn by thestrils to deliver him to his European trial. The coach never reaches its destination. Grindelwald escapes, rejoins his followers, and flees to Paris in search of Credence (Ezra Miller). He hopes the hapless orphan who destroyed half of New York with his uncontrolled magic can help him defeat his greatest adversary.
Newt is not the only person hot on his trail; his friend Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) also wants to save him, before the Ministry kills him. Then her sister Queenie (Alison Sudol) turns up on Newt’s doorstep with Jacob Kowalski (Dan Folger), hoping to get married in Paris. American laws of magic will not allow her to marry Jacob, due to his non-magic status. She hopes Paris will afford them the normality she craves.
The trio’s quest to find Credence sends them on a discovery of his identity, involves a host of magical creatures, and plays them into Grindelwald’s hands. And it may force Newt, a man who “takes no sides,” to choose one.
This film has many delightful surprises in store for dedicated Potter fans, from foreshadowing for the first Harry Potter novel (keep your eyes open for a certain red stone) to younger appearances from Professor McGonagall. Rowling also tackles the serious topic of mobilizing groups of people through fear into nationalism, drawing a parallel between Grindelwald’s reign of terror and desire for a “Pure Blood” dictatorship and the impending rise of Nazi Germany.
From a parental standpoint, it has few content concerns outside the magic—two utterances of “h*ll,” and references to children born outside of wedlock (a voice-over in a flashback says a wizard used dark magic to “seduce” a woman; this led to the ruination of her family, her death, and an illegitimate child). Another woman, when asked if she’s married, says she’s in a “dedicated” relationship. A bare-breasted statue (no noticeable details) guards the entrance to a hidden street. A woman puts a man under a love-spell to marry him against his will (he acts stupefied and infatuated with her).*
The movie is a cinematic treat, with gorgeous sets, fantastic costumes by Colleen Atwood, and a score both familiar and new. It moves into a heart-wrenching, powerful climax, but the first half tries to cover too many characters and too much ground. It’s not sure what it wants to be, flipping between Grindelwald’s schemes, Credence’s search for his parents, Queenie’s heartbreak, Newt’s care of magical creatures, the Ministry’s search for Credence, and the character of Leta Lestrange (Zoë Kravitz). There are several subplots and many side characters. This means no one receives much development, making the emotional reveals at the end less impacting than if we’d had time to grow invested in them. But Rowling still manages to pack a few emotional punches.
This story continues in the Potter tradition of lots of fantasy magic. It ranges from suitcases “bigger on the inside” to epic wizard battles with creatures formed of smoke, blue fire, and water. Wizards cast spells at one another to stupefy, blind, knock unconscious, even kill (a tactic only the villains use; most of the violence comes from these scenes, and implications of murders—we see a few dead bodies).
Newt is a rule-breaking lad with a heart of gold, whom Dumbledore says “always does the right [moral] thing.” The film asks its audience to understand that the end never justifies the means; it shows a villain who seduces with promises of freedom, but wants to use others for his own evil purposes (Grindelwald, even more than Voldemort, resembles Satan in his deceptions—he is this series’ “father of lies”), and it breaks your heart when characters, desperate for love, acceptance, and purpose, fall from grace. In so doing, it allows us to understand why people make the choices they do—and what drives them to it.
If you skipped the last installment or have never read the Harry Potter books, you will not grasp its subtler references, but for fans of the franchise, it’s a solid second installment that promises more adventures to come.
* Though Rowing has announced that Dumbledore is Gay, the film contains no overt references to his love for Grindelwald in their youth, apart from his comment that they were “more than brothers.”
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.