At least now it’s clear why director David Yates and writer J.K. Rowling kept accused mistreater of women and rambling interview subject Johnny Depp as dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald: Because Grindelwald is basically accused mistreater of women and rambling interview subject Donald Trump. This latest “Wizarding World” entry finds Grindelwald recently escaped from custody, and racing Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) and company to track down Credence (Ezra Miller), the powerful wizard who almost destroyed New York in the first Fantastic Beasts. The story leans hard into the idea of Grindelwald as a populist despot, with scenes of him holding rallies where his rhetoric is a creepy mix of wizard-superiority and “only I can save you” fear-mongering. But as an over-correction from the instantly-evaporating bombast of the last film, Rowling emphasizes portentous questions linked to future events: What is the connection between Grindelwald and the young Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law)? What is the dark family history of Lita Lestrange (Zoë Kravitz)? And why are we expected to believe that the twitchy Newt is apparently irresistible to so many women? Yates’ big set pieces are impressive enough, but no matter how hard Fantastic Beasts wants to ride the coattails of viewers’ love for Harry Potter and friends, there’s no way to manufacture an emotional connection to characters who were just fine as obscure entries in a Potterverse wiki.
Director: David Yates
Producer: David Heyman, J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves, Lionel Wigram, Tim Lewis, Neil Blair, Rick Senat and Danny Cohen
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Zoë Kravitz, Jude Law, Johnny Depp, Callum Turner, Claudia Kim, William Nadylam, Kevin Guthrie, Poppy Corby-Tuech, Brontis Jodorowsky, Carmen Ejogo, Ólafur Ólafsson, David Sakurai, Wolf Roth, Victoria Yeates and Derek Riddell