Straight up, I enjoyed this film for what is was. It was visually striking, with the tonal shifts and beasts. The use of an extreme close up on Theseus and Leta as they talked to Newt at the start of the film conveyed the sheer pressure and how uncomfortable Newt felt around them – the reasoning is partially explored as the film continues, although partly touched on in the first instalment. This is a nice touch as the viewer and Newt are much more relaxed once away from this awkward situation. The CGI and worlds are well realised with the trip back to Hogwarts a nice touch for the fans. There is plenty fan service – with much loved characters and objects making brief appearances throughout.
A quick character run down; Jude Law is an excellent, charismatic, endearing and persuasive Dumbledore. He portrays the character much like how he is when Harry comes across him later in his life, only he is younger more direct with those in the know. The casting of Johnny Depp was much talked about, yet his portrayal of Grindelwald could be likened to Depp of old, where he becomes the character and not a caricature of himself. You forgot you were watching Depp and instead got taken in with the enigmatic evil that is Grindelwald, he is equally persuasive and manipulative as Dumbledore and has his own legion of supporters to do his dirty work. Ezra Miller continues his fine performance of Credence, who is becoming more sure of his abilities. Claudia Kim as Nagini… will hopefully be built upon in further films – here she wasn’t given a lot to do. Katherine Waterston as Tina and Eddie Redmayne as Newt have a much more palpable chemistry between one another in this film as compared the the last (a part from the final scene). It is clear that their characters are being developed at a slower pace now that the story has shifted to focus on other issues/characters yet we will still follow them throughout the films as their stories are well and truly entwined. Callum Turner as Theseus and Zoe Kravitz as Leta Lestrange are alright, and towards the end Leta is given a more important role with the events but overall their characters contribution to the film is minimal and easily looked over. Dan Fogler as Jacob and Alison Sudol as Queenie are an entertaining duo when on screen together, and are able to stand on their own as separate characters as the film progresses.
However, it is flawed. The movie would not stand up on it’s own without the knowledge from the first film and even then, some of what is revealed even baffles the most discerning fan. This is a departure from the Harry Potter films where, barring Deathly Hallows Parts 1 and 2 you would be able to watch and enjoy each self contained story while it built upon wider story arks. I felt that this film relies heavily on what the viewer should already be aware of, and frankly will become aware of with the next instalments, this could ultimately exclude some of the audience as they may not be aware of just what is happening. I liken this to middle-book-syndrome where the story relies too heavily on what came before and what will come after that it loses its way and relies on shock and awe to hold its own within a series. I suspect as the next movies are released this one will not be well remembered.
Now, previous readers will be aware that I am a fan of the Wizarding World. I grew up on Harry Potter and devoured the books upon their release – especially towards the end when I would snatch the book before my mother could read it first. This is a new age however, untested grounds if you will. These movies are being released, with the viewer likely to know the conclusion but not how we get there. However, that does mean that J.K Rowling has to be weary of what lore she is introducing and why – does it conflict with previous lore from the books, or latterly Pottermore? It will be interesting as the series progresses to see what is ultimately realised and if fans are able to guess what is true and what is false.