Following the New York disaster, Newt Scamander is forbidden from travelling abroad. But when Gellert Grindelwald escapes incarceration and flees to Paris, Newt is recruited by Albus Dumbledore to go in pursuit. And the troubled Credence is still out there.
That is possibly a problem with this film, though. Because if you haven’t wondered about these things, then there is a huge amount of this film which won’t mean that much to you. And if you haven’t memorised every bit of the Potter books and the previous Fantastic Beasts film, you may find yourself getting confused by much of the detail.
The story should be straightforward. Dangerous dark magician Grindelwald needs to be found. Credence needs to learn his ancestry. Newt is risking trouble by leaving the country as Dumbledore wants him to. He also has problems with his brother Theseus, not to mention being lovelorn towards Tina Goldstein from the previous film. And Queenie and Jacob, also from the first film, have problems too.
Then we have Dumbledore himself as a young man, teaching at Hogwarts, and heavily involved in the battle against dark wizardry. I quite liked Jude Law’s young Dumbledore, even though I wasn’t at all sure that I could imagine him growing into Michael Gambon. Or Richard Harris, for that matter.
I liked all the characters here. I especially liked Ezra Miller’s Credence, whose personal issues make him tragically sympathetic, but extremely dangerous. Johnny Depp plays Grindelwald with no mannerisms or affectations. It’s a pleasure to enjoy a straightforward performance of a powerful character from him. And Eddie Redmayne’s Newt, shy and diffident, but always strong enough to do the right thing come what may, continues to be a pleasure.
But the story isn’t easy to get to grips with. It is dark in tone (and often in colour, too), but that’s fine. However there is so much which is texture rather than narrative that it is often heavy going. The Potter films were adapted from books: this is original material by JK Rowling, and it needed to be friendlier to a casual audience.
And, is it just me, but wizarding abilities appear to be wildly variable. Sometimes they are very limited, sometimes they are extravagantly flamboyant – exactly what the plot demands at any particular moment in time, in fact.
I enjoyed this – there is an exciting and emotional climax – but it was much harder work than it needed to be.