Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them ended with Johnny Depp’s Gellert Grindelwald being revealed and arrested; no prizes for guessing that The Crimes Of Grindelwald begins with him escaping. With Grindelwald on the loose and amassing followers to his regime of magic superiority, a younger Dumbledore (Jude Law) recruits Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) to track down powerful Obscurial Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller) before Grindelwald can recruit him.
The increased stakes in this film leaves the original quartet of Newt, Tina (Katherine Waterson), Jacob (Dan Fogler) and Queenie (Alison Sudol) with surprisingly little to do. The film is so stuffed with character and incident that hardly anyone gets more than a few minutes on screen. Eddie Redmayne is once again excellent as Newt, although the series still hasn’t offered a compelling reason as to why the socially awkward animal lover is the right person to stop Grindelwald. Credence, one of the highlights of the first film, is more of a MacGuffin than a character this time round, and Fogler and Sudol have a quietly powerful storyline that suffers from a lack of screen time.
The new cast have more room to make an impact than some of the returning stars – Jude Law makes for an excellent Dumbledore, and with J. K. Rowling behind the script it’s no surprise that his characterisation is perfectly in line with the older self that we already know and love. Zoë Kravitz, too, lends a weighty, sad presence to proceedings whenever the lonely and bullied Leta Lestrange turns up.
But, as with the first Fantastic Beasts movie, there’s a sense of ‘so what?’ hanging over this film. It has more to say than its predecessor, but it’s nothing that the Harry Potter series hasn’t already said. The freshest and most imaginative scenes focus on the magic beasts that Newt (increasingly rarely) comes across, and there’s a sense that after his sixth Wizarding World film, Yates might be running out of ideas to make magic visually entrancing.