Dust off your magic wand because Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, part two of the brisk new Harry Potter spin-off, is hitting cinemas.
The Harry Potter saga has reached its conclusion, but head wizard J.K. Rowling is well aware that there is a hunger for more stories from the universe she created. The born storyteller writes the scripts for a spin-off that is set in the interbellum and so precedes the Harry Potter stories. Two years ago, the first film, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, was surprisingly good entertainment.
It was a clever move to give the Potter role to Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), a Tintin-esque wizard with an enormous interest in the intriguing and sometimes completely wacky creatures that populate the wizarding world. His openness to everything and everyone contrasts sharply with the fascist ideology of the (tentative?) Voldemort replacement: Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp). This film benefits enormously from the extensive experience that director David Yates and his team acquired while making the Potter finale, especially with respect to the smooth integration and imaginative depiction of the constant stream of magical things and events.
The second instalment again packs in more than enough entertainment to give families and Potter fans a fun trip to the cinema in the Christmas season. Unfortunately, it is not a completely overwhelming experience. J.K. Rowling is excellent at detail, but she has packed the script with characters and secondary characters who get in each other’s way and with whom we are not familiar (unlike in the Potter films). What’s more, director Yates has difficulty keeping all the different plot lines clear.
The result is that the major dramatic events during the finale bounce off you rather than reverberating through you. The hocus pocus is all there, but it somewhat lacks magic. Hopefully that will be sorted out in the third instalment. The spin-off definitely has potential.