FILM REVIEW: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. Malvern Theatres.

Let’s be clear, anyone who has followed the Harry Potter franchise can be in no doubt that the karmic drift of the Potterverse is inevitably towards darkness, and the Fantastic Beast movies are no exception.

The Crimes of Grindelwald (12A), the second so far in the Fantastic Beasts series, is not exactly a family movie and nor is it meant to be. While it is true that Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander remains an endearing, animal-adoring wizard, and the kleptomaniac creature the niffler is as cute as ever, up to his usual tricks, dark shadows are settling on this world.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, because it allows for shocks and character development. Without giving too much of the plot away, there is at least one disturbing defection to the dark side. It’s all the more likely because the audience can see how this happens. It almost makes sense.

Johnny Depp as the evil wizard Grindelwald is almost a metaphor for Hitler’s rise to power. He is persuasive and charismatic, but he can also turn a blind eye to the murder of the most loveable toddler on the planet.

Depp’s clipped British accent is straight from the Raj, and very effective, while his demeanour and attitudes are borrowed from the SS. The Potterverse is clever like this, using echoes from real history for plot development: in this case the rise of the Nazi Party. There is likewise a fascination with birth and breeding, which strengthens that disturbing echo. Much of the plot is focussed on the true identity of Credence, the possessor of enormous but undisciplined magical powers. The answer is also a shock and a surprise.

Gary Bills-Geddes.