I was 15 when I was gifted my first Harry Potter book – The Prisoner of Azkaban. What a journey it has been !! And J K Rowling hasn’t stopped there. After the success of Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, we have Fantastic Beasts – The Crimes of Grindelwald, the tenth in the segment. He was considered to be the evilest wizard until Voldemort came along and dethroned him.
Hogwarts Professor (still not the principal!) Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) enlists the help of former pupil Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) to take down Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp), a dark wizard who has escaped incarceration and is hell-bent on raising pure-blood wizards to rule over No-Majs (Muggles). As is often the case in a Rowling production, evil is ascendant, seeping through both human and magic realms like the nerve gas. This prequel takes a turn for the dark side that will satisfy the franchise’s adult fans even more.
Grindelwald sporting a peroxide-blond brush haircut escapes from his transport and is now attacking No-Majs. He wants power. Once Grindelwald lands in Paris, Newt — a glorified dog catcher, clearly out of his league — is dispatched to go after the fugitive wizard. Why doesn’t Dumbledore, one of the most powerful wizards who ever lived, go after Grindelwald himself? Those who belong to the Rowling-verse know. Others will have to wait. Newt is aided in this mission by sidekicks returning from the 2016 “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” baker Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) and magical sisters Queenie (Alison Sudol) and Porpentina or Tina (Katherine Waterston) – the Goldsteins. Credence is an Obscurial (a wizard who has repressed his magical abilities, which, in his case, have manifested themselves in the form of an Obscurus: a dark, uncontrollably destructive entity), being sought both by Newt and Grindelwald – one to stop him from creating more havoc, and one to encourage him.
Rowling is a literary magpie and first-rate synthesizer, and her stated inspirations for the Harry Potter books range from classical mythology to Jane Austen. Traces of the Bible, Shakespeare, Tolkien and other Western-lit staples are sprinkled throughout that series and therefore, this one too.
The Crimes Of Grindelwald works harder than the previous tale to tie into the series history. There is the flashback return to Hogwarts, Voldemort’s snake Nagini (Claudia Kim) in human form and the haunted appearance of young Dumbledore, Jude Law bringing a twinkle to a more mischievous take on the professor. The question of Dumbledore’s sexuality is coyly suggested rather than heartily expressed — if it has passed you by that Dumbledore is gay, you still might be none the wiser.
Director David Yates makes sure that the darkness makes a startling contrast to the first movie, which mostly involved a lot of narrative place setting, including all the fun beastly introductions. The Crimes of Grindelwald has one of the biggest third-act revelations in the whole Harry Potter series. All of this serves a greater purpose, the fullness of which will be revealed only over the course of the next three films. One other thing that Rowling is good at: planning. Grindelwald’s story, set in 1927, may be all about nifflers and wizards, but it’s also very much a parable of the world today. Grindelwald is a demagogue. He holds rallies. He incites his followers to violence by demonizing the other. His power comes not from a wand, but from dividing people against one another. He is Hitler with magic in him.
There is another He Who Shall Not Be Named, whose shadow looms large over everything. And no, it ain’t Voldemort!! Get on this evil trip if you are the kind who yearns for a ticket for this kind of a journey.