A much-hyped movie, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald has mixed reviews. In truth, after the success of the first Fantastic Beasts, the hype was justified. After our introduction to Newt Scamander, Tina and Queenie Goldstein, and Jacob Kowalski, the Potter universe was thirsty for more. After the reveal of the title of the sequel, that thirst transformed into a bottomless pit of anticipation.
With Johnny Depp manning the ship as Gellert Grindelwald and Jude Law playing a young Albus Dumbledore, one cannot blame the uncontained excitement of the Potter universe. Fantastic Beasts gives the Potter purebloods something that which was always missing. Prequels. Backstory. Expanded knowledge. So, how does Fantastic Beasts 2 hold up? Let us discuss with a Side Spin exclusive! First, before moving forward, an obvious SPOILER ALERT is in order as key aspects of the story and plot will be discussed.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is a complex, layered story. Not only does it continue the story of the first movie, but it connects many pieces of the original Harry Potter story. We could spend hours trying to break down all the subtle nuisances of the story, but we will contain ourselves. Instead, we will focus on the development of three of the major characters: Albus Dumbledore, Gellert Grindelwald, and Newt Scamander.
First, we will look at Gellert Grindelwald. As we learn in the first Fantastic Beasts, Grindelwald is the main antagonists of the story. After his capture, Gellert is imprisoned for six months and due to be transported to London to face charges with the British Ministry of Magic. As the current master of the Elder Wand, Gellert is a problem for the Aurors. Naturally, he escapes with the assistance of an inside man. Grindelwald is once again free to continue his crimes.
Gellert then travels to Paris in search of his primary target: Credence Barebone. If you recall, Credence is the Obscurus from the first Fantastic Beasts. We learn that Grindelwald plans to use Credence to defeat his main competition: Albus Dumbledore. Gellert is the rightful master of the Elder Wand, which is one of the most powerful items in all of magic. Still, he does not feel that he can defeat Dumbledore. This is strange. Yet, Grindelwald believes the innate, latent power the of the Obscruial Credence can eliminate his only obstacle. For now, we’ll point the last point on the ice. Now, it’s catch up with Mr. Scamander.
We find Newt at the British Ministry of Magic. Newt is seeking to have his international travel ban lifted. To do so, he faces a panel, including his own brother, with an offer for Newt. Work as an Auror to defeat the Obscurus Credence and he’s free to travel as he pleases. Of course, Scamander declines. Newt doesn’t pick sides. Still, he is not free and clear. Newt’s brother (Theseus) informs him that he’s being watched.
Scamander, who stated in the first Fantastic Beasts he was going to Arizona, was sent to American by Dumbledore. We learn this when Newt meets with Albus. Newt tells Albus of Credence. Dumbledore thinks Credence can be saved and needs Scamander’s assistance. Furthermore, Albus needs Newt in the fight against Gellert. Dumbledore states that he cannot fight Grindelwald. Still, we do not know why.
Newt returns home to find Jacob and Queenie there. Queenie announces that she and Jacob are set to be married, but something seems off to Newt. As it turns out, Jacob is under enchantment. He wants to marry Queenie, but it’s taboo with him being a no maj. A no maj, of course, is a non-magic person. Jacob does not wish to place Queenie in danger. Upset, Queenie travels to Paris to see Tina, who is working a case as an Auror. That case is the case of Credence Barebone. For now, we’ll pause the story of Newt and move onto Albus. You’ll understand soon.
Albus Dumbledore, not yet headmaster, is visited at Hogwarts but a delegation. In this delegation, we see the Head of Magical Law Enforcement of the British Ministry of Magic. He too wishes Albus to confront Grindelwald. At this point, it’s obvious that Dumbledore is the only witch or wizard capable of beating Gellert. Albus, however, is unable or unwillingly to face Grindelwald.
Soon, we find Dumbledore in front of water appears to be the Mirror of Erised. We see a young Albus and a young Gellert draw blood on their palms. Then, they conjoin hands. From this, a vial is made. This is a blood oath. A blood oath is not too much different than an Unbreakable Vow (see Half-Blood Prince). However, what the blood oath means is still unknown.
Before the Mirror of Erised scene, the Head of Magical Law Enforcement places some sort of tracking spell on Albus. They now have him quite literally braced. With the braces on his wrist, every spell he casts is known to them. Since Dumbledore will not cooperate, it seems he’s being punished. Possibly, they are trying to coerce Albus into playing ball.
At this point, everything begins to come to a head. All but Albus are in Paris. Gellert has called a rally of sorts. Actually, it’s not too different than a rally one might see with President Trump. That, though, it beside the point. At the rally, Jacob finds Queenie. Tina and Newt have been working together to track Credence, who is at the rally with Nagini (see my upcoming article “The Extended Review” for more about Nagini). The Aurors from the British Ministry of Magic are there. Then, Grindelwald begins his speech. Quick pause and rewind.
Right before the speech of Gellert, we are treated to a large revelation. This whole time, the heritage and true identity of the Obscrusus Credence are in question. In a swift sequence, we learn that Credence is actually Corvus Lestrange. Corvus is the brother of Leta Lestrange. Leta is the fiance of Theseus and former lover of Newt. Yes, it’s complicated. It gets more complicated.
Leta confesses that she knows Corvus is not Credence because Corvus is dead. Leta killed Corvus. At least, she takes the primary blame for him. When a ship to the United States carrying Corvus and Leta crashes, Leta swaps a crying Corvus with another baby. This baby dies in a crash of a lifeboat. So, just when we think we know the identity of the Obscruial, we don’t.
Back to the action. In the heat of his speech, a Grindelwald supporter is killed by an Auror. All but the main characters, Grindelwald, and the Aurors disapparate. Gellert then casts a spell of blue flames surrounding him. At first glance, it seems like a form of fiendfyre (see Deathly Hallows). Yet, it is not. This took some digging, but the script of the movie reveals the spell is called Protego Diabolica. It is efficient. Those who join Gellert are not harmed by the fire. Those who do not perish.
In the end, Nicolas Flamel assists the gang in a counterspell that eliminates Protego Diabolica. Now, you will need to sit down, because things get real. After Credence joins Gellert, the two retreat to Numengard Castle. Here, we learn the identity of Credence. Credence is a Dumbledore. Aurelius Dumbledore to be exact. For more on this, you will need the extended review of the movie. Back at Hogwarts, we discover that Newt’s niffler seals the vial of the blood oath from Grindelwald. When Newt returns the vial to Albus, we learn the meaning of the blood oath.
Albus and Gellert made an oath not to fight each other. This is why Dumbledore and Grindelwald are reluctant to face each other. They can’t. The British Ministry of Magic then breaks the tracking spell cast on Dumbledore. Albus and Newt then set off to find a way to safely break the blood oath. Credits.
At the end of the day, I gave the movie four and a half stars out of five. Yes, continuity errors happen. Some that even cause massive plot holes, but die-hard fans easily sow these holes. The story was complex. It was intriguing and it left me wanting more. From now until 2020 with Fantastic Beasts 3, this movie will keep my brain churning. I recommend it for not just Potter enthusiasts, but for anyone who loves a great story. Let us know what you thought at @SideSpinMedia.