PHOTO CAPTION: Jude Law as Albus Dumbledore (left) and Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander (right) meet on the roof of a London government building. This was Jude Law’s first appearance in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. “All the less conspicuous buildings were taken, then?” asks Newt.
By Susan Matteucci
Set in the year 1927, long before Harry Potter, or even Tom Riddle, ever attended Hogwarts, JK Rowling presents fans with Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (much more crimes of Grindelwald than fantastic beasts, however). The movie focuses on the conflict between Albus Dumbledore and his old “closer than brother” Garrett Grindelwald.
In this budding war, neither Dumbledore nor Grindelwald are ready for the standoff Harry Potter fans know is to come. Instead they choose…champions of sorts, to fight their battles for them.
Grindelwald has his eye on Credence, a young obscurial with powerful, yet uncontrolled, magic. Dumbledore, on the other hand, chooses a more or less overlooked hero: our lovable, autistic, magizoologist, Newt Scamander.
Complete with his briefcase full of magical creatures, Newt (Eddie Redmayne) joins his muggle (sorry no-mag) sidekick Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) on a journey to Paris, France, to win back their ladies (oh, and fight evil).
Redmayne’s stunning performance as our geeky little hero is–for lack of a better word–fantastic. His adorkable manner makes the otherwise dark movie light and enjoyable. And even though it is never said outright, Newt’s autism shows in his lines as well as his actions. In a 2016 interview, Eddie Redmayne states that he thinks Newt is on the autistic spectrum and has been playing him that way. We never heard anything from JK Rowling, but she confirms Redmayne’s suspicion with the dialogue she gives him in the movie. Especially in a very painfully awkward scene between Newt and Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) that will have you squirming in your seat muttering, “Someone help this poor boy through this conversation.”
Ezra Miller’s performance as “depressed teenager” Credence is somewhat overshadowed by the breathtaking Claudia Kim who (controversially) plays Nagini. Who is…human? (The franchise has only has seen Nagini as a large snake, the pet of Lord Voldemort.) Those who were hoping for an explanation of Nagini’s sudden change in species will be disappointed to find there is no such thing. She does change to a snake and back many times in the film, and audiences learn through the dialogue of the movie that she will eventually be unable to change back into human sometime in her life. However, we are left with the question: how does this sweet girl wind up working with Lord Voldemort? If the question will ever be answered, it is not in this film.
Jude Law’s calm and collected performance has finally put that long lost twinkle in Dumbledore’s eye. The days of “DID YOU PUT YOUR NAME IN THE GOBLET OF FIRE?” have long since past. Seeing Dumbledore teaching (granted, the wrong subject, but nonetheless) also establishes a long-lost love among Potterheads. His performance is reminiscent of David Thewlis as Remus Lupin in the classroom, creating great parallels, both of them being a Great Teacher™.
Dumbledore’s wrong subject is not the only flaw taking place at Hogwarts. The appearance of Professor McGonagall in the film had even the most experienced Potterhead left with the thought “Wait… what?” Minerva McGonagall is shown working in the school close to ten years before what is estimated to be her birth. Even if this is Professor McGonagall, I think all Potterheads can agree that this is not Professor McGonagall. The appearance of the young professor (Fiona Glascott) is not only forced into the story, but it is completely out of character. In fact, having Professor Slughorn in her place would not only fix the time flaws but, with the same exact lines, would be a more accurate characterization.
All in all, the performance of the actors and the progression of the story, while flawed here and there, is guaranteed to leave viewers with anticipation for the next film of the saga. I give this movie a four out of five-star rating and can’t wait to go back an see it again.