‘Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald’

Harry Potter Fan Fiction In Movie Form, Starring Johnny Depp

Self-select before you trek to Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. Potterheads will flip for the latest Jazz Age prequel to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter septology. But muggles beware (and if you don’t know what a muggle is, then point proven.) Newcomers to the Wizarding World should stay far, far away from film #10 in the phenomenally successful fantasy franchise. Those who don’t will risk complete confusion.

Casual viewers with a rosy but fading recollection of the Boy Who Lived and his sprawling, detailed universe will prick up at the familiar details. A boggart! Polyjuice potion! Aurors! A Nagini origin subplot! There’s a visit to Hogwarts, complete with a scolding but comely professor McGonagall. And a cameo from 600-year-old Nicolas Flamel, whose legendary Sorcerer’s Stone makes for a cute blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Easter Egg.

The ostensible star of this film series is geeky Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), a magizoologist whose mild-mannered and slightly on-the-spectrum personality belies an intrepid moral compass. But let’s face it, people are really coming to see Jude Law as a hunky younger Albus Dumbledore and Johnny Depp as his dashing arch-nemesis Gellert Grindelwald.

Directed by: David Yates
Written by: J.K. Rowling
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Johnny Depp, Jude Law, Katharine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller
Running time: 134 min.

The two were once best friends who swore a blood oath not to hurt each other. But now Grindelwald has escaped from a New York prison and runs amok in Europe spreading his noxious pro-magic pureblood ideology. He’s thirsty to enslave the non-magical world, so naturally Dumbledore enlists geeky magizoologist Scamander to help him fight. Contrived? Of course!

But whatever. I have a feeling that Scamander is the Frodo Baggins of what’s shaping up to be a Lord of the Rings battle royale between the forces of good and evil circa 1927. Obsessive fans who deep-dive into Rowling’s Pottermore website will recognize the stirrings of what will become the Global Wizarding War, a magical conflagration that apparently runs parallel to World War II.

Despite all the googly-eyed creatures of the land, air, and sea, this handsome production does strive towards genuine human drama under all the digital confetti. There are star-crossed lovers and fraternal struggles, plus a Dickensian orphan with a dark past and even darker powers.

But most of all, there’s a looney-tunes bankrupt billionaire playing the title character. The fiftysomething movie star has gone “full Depp” by growling in an Olivier accent and sporting a peroxide shock of Troll hair, a right oculus with a milky, blood-ringed iris, double-breasted trench coat, popped collar and white silk scarf. Dude literally vapes from a hookah-skull and spews out hallucinations of continental devastation in a stone amphitheater under the Père Lachaise Cemetery. And then he transforms into a dragon made of blue flame and flies away. Merlin’s beard!

I was once a great beauty

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Stephen Garrett

Stephen Garrett is the former film editor of 'Time Out New York’ and has written about the movie industry for more than 20 years. A Rotten Tomatoes certified reviewer, Garrett is also the founder of Jump Cut, a marketing company that creates trailers and posters for independent, foreign-language, and documentary films.

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