FAN­TAS­TIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDEL­WALD

Gellert load of this…

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The lat­est Wizard­ing World ad­ven­ture earns five stars.

J.K. Rowl­ing is back. As in re­ally back. If 2016’s Fan­tas­tic Beasts And Where To Find Them ex­panded the uni­verse she first in­tro­duced with the Harry Pot­ter sto­ries, then The Crimes Of Grindel­wald takes things not just wider but deeper. Given this is part two of a mooted five-movie se­ries, Rowl­ing – who again scripts – isn’t even half­way done yet.

It be­gins in 1927, at the Amer­i­can Min­istry of Magic, where the dark wiz­ard Gellert Grindel­wald (Johnny Depp) had been held for six months since his cap­ture at the end of the orig­i­nal Beasts. He’s had his tongue re­moved in or­der to cur­tail his pow­ers of per­sua­sion, but that doesn’t stop him mount­ing a dra­matic es­cape. Cut to Lon­don, three months later: Newt Sca­man­der (Ed­die Red­mayne) ar­rives at the Min­istry where his brother Th­e­seus (Callum Turner) works, along with Leta Les­trange (Zoë Kravitz), Th­e­seus’ fi­ancée.

PRIME HOOVER

Si­b­ling ri­valry not­with­stand­ing, Newt is there hop­ing to over­turn the in­ter­na­tional travel ban im­posed on him after his role in the events sur­round­ing Grindel­wald’s ar­rest. If talk of such bans brings to mind Don­ald Trump’s ac­tions at the start of his pres­i­dency, it’s not the only time Rowl­ing evokes real-world events. Grindel­wald, it tran­spires, is gath­er­ing fol­low­ers to cre­ate a new world or­der rul­ing over all non-mag­i­cal be­ings.

Key to this is the dis­turbed Cre­dence Bare­bone (Ezra Miller), now en­sconced in a freak show in Paris as he seeks to find his real lin­eage. “Des­per­ate for fam­ily, he’s des­per­ate for love,” coos Grindel­wald, all too will­ing to ex­ploit Cre­dence’s power for his own ends. But Grindel­wald is not the only one look­ing for him. Un­be­known to the Min­istry, Newt is asked to track down Cre­dence by Hog­warts’ very own Pro­fes­sor Al­bus Dum­ble­dore (Jude Law).

Join­ing Newt is his no-maj friend Ja­cob (Dan Fo­gel), who ar­rives in Lon­don with Quee­nie (Ali­son Su­dol). Ja­cob’s me­mories of their ear­lier en­coun­ters have been re­stored

(or “un-oblivi­ated”) but he’s now un­der an en­chant­ment. Soon enough, they’re all off to France, with Quee­nie’s sis­ter Tina (Kather­ine Water­son) also in pur­suit of Cre­dence, for an ad­ven­ture that comes vividly to life in the hands of di­rec­tor David Yates, who rel­ishes bring­ing ’20s Paris to the screen.

Notch­ing up his sixth Rowlin­gin­spired film, Yates truly un­der­stands what makes the Wizard­ing World work. Each frame is filled to the brim with de­tail, whether it’s gob­lins clean­ing win­dows on float­ing lifts or a con­trap­tion hoover­ing round the Min­istry of Magic (well, some­one has to do it). Nor are the ‘beasts’ for­got­ten, from baby nif­flers cheek­ily

‘YATES UN­DER­STANDS What Makes The WIZARD­ING WORLD WORK’

pop­ping cham­pagne corks to the beau­ti­ful sea­weed-skinned kelpies, some Ja­panese wa­ter demons and one lion-like crea­ture that can travel 1,000 miles in a day.

’WARTS AND AL­BUS

And, of course, Pot­ter fans will get a huge kick out of the scenes that re­turn us to Hog­warts, long be­fore Harry et al got to roam its cor­ri­dors. Her­alded by a blast of John Williams’ orig­i­nal score, shots of the Great Hall and class­rooms pro­duce a shiver. And it’s be­guil­ing to see Law’s twinkly eyed Dum­ble­dore giv­ing a les­son. Need­less to say, this is no nos­tal­gia trip; Rowl­ing has good rea­son for go­ing back to school – es­pe­cially when she cues up flash­backs to the time when the picked-upon Leta and Newt were class­mates.

Yet the film re­ally hits its con­sid­er­able peak in its rev­e­la­tion­heavy fi­nal third, with a show­down at Père Lachaise. In a film about brothers and sis­ters, sur­ro­gate or oth­er­wise, the Beasts fam­ily tree gets all the more thorny, as hith­erto un­known – and com­plex – re­la­tion­ships are un­veiled.

Mean­while, the leather-clad Grindel­wald’s rally – cut to im­ages of world war and even a mush­room cloud – weaves threads to our own Mug­gle world. It’s not hard to link this bleached-blond mad­man’s rise to that of the far right. While the orig­i­nal cast led by Red­mayne pick up eas­ily where they left off, the new­com­ers fit in seam­lessly. Law is spot-on with Dum­ble­dore, mak­ing a char­ac­ter so in­deli­bly played by Richard Har­ris and Michael Gam­bon his own. As for Depp, he plays Grindel­wald with sin­is­ter men­ace, but never over­cooks it. Credit Yates, too, for en­sur­ing dark­ness is sea­soned with light. “I think this might be the best mo­ment of my life,” says Newt, as his brother gets zapped. Even in the bleak­est of times, there’s rea­son to smile. James Mot­tram

the VER­DICT

Rowl­ing’s uni­verse just got big­ger and more com­plex, but Yates never for­gets to sprin­kle star­dust on top.

Ed­die Red­mayne and kather­ine water­son ramp up the dark­ness…

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