Two heart-wrenching scenes even before the main title set the tone for a dramatic and visually-thrilling third instalment of the Harry Potter prequel franchise.
This movie lives up to its word, giving up the secrets of Dumblebore and his family. It’s more adult, the characters are most definitely grown up but they’re wholesome in a way; battling evil, battling their own inner demons, and battling to stay true to their own values.
Characters we love and know are back and we are introduced to some likeable new friends as well. Jude Law is the most animated and mobile we’ve ever seen Professor Albus Dumbledore. He hints that there could be a superhero-type, international adventurer in him – things to come in the next movie perhaps. His entanglement and fight with the enigmatic Gellert Grindelwald are at the core of the plot, with each making moves akin to the Wizards’ Chess from the very first Harry Potter movie. Mads Mikkelsen as Grindelwald is believably menacing and has replaced the unruliness of Johnny Depp with gravitas and formidable aplomb.
Magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is back, leading a team of witches, wizards, beasts, and muggle Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) to confound Grindelwald and save the world. This unlikely team do a great job of confusing their enemies but this also makes for a quite bewildering first half of the movie. Events unfold that are perplexing yet humorous and it’s best just to surrender yourself to the thrill of the ride and not overthink whether you’re missing plot intricacies.
Newcomer to the franchise, although she had a brief cameo in Fantastic Beasts 2, is Eulalie “Lally” Hicks, a beguiling American Charms professor played by Jessica Williams. Bringing forthright sass and charm to the role, Williams is a welcome addition to the cast and is a perfect foil to Fogler’s Jacob.
The beasts steal many of the scenes, literally! Niffler is back again, stealing anything he can in sight and helping Scamander along the way. The tiny but mighty Pickett, his brave and resourceful Bowtruckle, gets the team out of several tricky situations in some of the funniest moments in the film. A gorgeous new beast is introduced called the Qilin, integral to the plot and symbolise everything the protagonists aim for in the film – heart, truth, and goodness.
With towering, expansive sets, the film takes us to places as far flung as Bhutan and Germany. The vast scale of these locations is actually achieved through sets built for the most part on the backlot and soundstages in England at Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden. The visual effects are creative, painstakingly detailed, and most likely will be award-winning. There are also a couple of scenes set at Hogwarts and we return to the village of Hogsmeade, recreated for this film.
The film is full of sumptuous costumes, particularly the ever-elegant style of Grindelwald’s sidekick, Vinda Rosier (Poppy Corby-Tuech), her dresses are certainly a feast for the eyes in the film. There were tear-jerker moments, as well as tears from laughter. Watch out for the scene that takes place in a German prison, ten times worse than Azkerban but 100 times funnier.
With a running time of two hours and 30 minutes, some of the long, lingering looks and belaboured deliberations could have been cut to take out some of the slow moments, without losing the solemnness and impact of some of the soul-searching moments.
Overall, this is the best so far out of three brilliant films. The plot also sets things up nicely for a fourth movie.
Movie Review By Kim Burley