F animal ewer; more crimes. This second adventure in the film series by JK Rowling about the young and unexplored magi-zoologist Newt Scamander, played by Eddie Redmayne, takes the inevitable and darkest turn. The plot is initially coagulated by subtle narrative turns, reactivating the characters from the last film, saving them from the apparent destruction or loss of memory; there are unresolved mysteries and a general sense of disturbing forces and implicit implications that may require many films.
The epic story of Rowling's magical world includes specific references to the Hogwarts universe that we already know and love, younger versions of the old characters and thus somehow look more prequelized, with hints to a myth of origin. But as often happens with fantasy adventures, storm clouds are coming and history is inexorably weighted towards a titanic battle of good and evil. It is as spectacular as the marvelous opening film, with lovingly crafted creatures, witty inventions and cheerful cartoons. But I could not help but feel that the narrative pace was a little hampered, and that we got bogged down, just a little bit, with many new details. That said: the architectural details of JK Rowling's creativity are increasingly impressive.
Now we have to deal with the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald, played by Johnny Depp with a Marilyn Manson-style contact lens. Like Magneto in the X-Men, he believes in the superiority of the superpower; Grindelwald absolutely refuses the idea of peaceful coexistence with Muggles, and insists that the only realistic way for wizards to survive and thrive is to establish absolute dominance over these non-magical types under the its own tyrannical rule. And his "crimes"? These, it seems, could still be all in the future. The film is set, like the first, at the end of the 1920s, but in a climax of frenetic rhetoric, Grindelwald offers its followers a vision of the horrors that will come in the next 10 or 15 years: war and destruction. All this, he says, is what he wants to avoid. But it is ambiguous.
Grindelwald begins in custody, the way we left him at the end of the last film, a figure of Lecterian who is not resigned to imprisonment. In Paris we are given back a figure of vital importance: Credence, a tormented young man played by Ezra Miller, who could be the key to the future of magic. Is he good or bad? The choice is not so simple. Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) is also in Paris for the business of magicians, and poor Newt is still in love with her, but has cooled down on him, due to a misunderstanding about his relationship with Leta Lestrange (Zoë Kravitz), who is engaged to Newt's brother, Theseus (Callum Turner), an official magic official who is trying to rehabilitate Newt's reputation with the powers that are. Dan Fogler resumed his nice turn as the non-great friend of Newt Jacob, who is still with Tina's sister, Queenie (Alison Sudol).
But the most surprising newcomer is the young Albus Dumbledore, well played by Jude Law, an enigmatic and charming figure who persuades Newt that he has to travel to Paris to find Credence and face his destiny. Albus, of course, is the former teacher of Newt, and there is a very funny flashback scene when he encourages the young Newt to come face to face with his boggart, the form of his worst fear. The biggest fear of Newt is working in an office, so his mess is a miserable desk with a typewriter that turns into a snarling monster.
Albus is now known to be gay, and in this film he turns out to have been as close as brothers with a certain young character. In fact, closer than the brothers. The relationship was intense. It was a mixture of blood. But his homosexuality is represented only fleetingly and indirectly.
This Fantastic Animal film is watchable and entertaining as expected and is an eventful Christmas event, but some of the wonders, novelty and pure narrative speed of the first film have been lost in favor of a more widespread storyline, widespread in a cast largest ensemble. There is also a more conscious and conscious deposition of bases for a great mythic franchise with apocalyptic battles still far below the horizon. I wanted to see a lot more from that superb performer, Katherine Waterston, but Redmayne's Newt is becoming a real character: kind, shy, with a childlike quality that does not really change, no matter how scary things become.
• Fantastic animals: The Crimes of Grindelwald was released on November 16