MIKE AT THE CINEMA: Engage the third installment of the Fantastic Beasts series


by MIKE ORLOCK

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When we last saw Newt Scamander, the “magizoologist” at the center of JK Rowling’s (sort of) prequel to all things Harry Potter, he was in Paris trying to stop the evil wizard Gellert Grindelwald from misusing a Qilin, a kind of Chinese Dragon, to destroy the city and start a war against the world, in the climax of 2018 Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.

Grindelwald, you see, is one of those purebred wizards who thinks all ‘purebloods’ should rule the world and enslave Muggles (non-magical humans) to do the grunt work for them. He’s the founding father of Voldemort from the Potter series, and if he’s not as menacing as He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, it’s not for lack of trying. The only thing standing between him and world domination is Albus Dumbledore – and Newt distracts, of course, with his suitcase full of wondrous creatures.

Newt is played by Oscar-winning actor Eddie Redmayne, and he’s back in top form, as he might say, trying to put things right in the latest Beasts slice, engaging Dumbledore’s secrets (PG-13), currently in theaters but coming to HBO Max later this month. This is the third of five planned films in the franchise, so it doesn’t reveal anything to reveal that Newt and Dumbledore (Jude Law again doing wizarding work with an iconic role) aren’t quite successful in defeating Grindelwald. as much as counteracting it – but, hey, writer Rowling (working with veteran screenwriter Steve Kloves) and director David Yates, who’s guided this series from the start, have to save stuff for later, isn’t it not?

The secrets we learn in Dumbledore are more or less confirmation of plot twists hinted at in earlier films, involving Dumbledore’s “relationship” with Grindelwald and the true identity of Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller), the Obscurus in anger (think of an emotionally disturbed wizard who doesn’t know he is one) that Grindelwald wants to use to keep his old friend from interfering with his plans.

These shots are now centered in Berlin between the world wars, at a time when a real-life necromancer was swirling his own dark magic among the masses, and the plot meshes well with the tragic history of this period as Grindelwald and his Nazi-like followers. seek to seize the chancellery of the Ministry of Magic and install him as dictator. Joining Newt and Dumbledore against these forces of darkness are Muggle Queens baker Jacob Kowalski (series mainstay Dan Fogler); Newt’s older brother Theseus (Callum Turner); Lally Hicks (Jessica Williams), a Charms teacher from the American version of Hogwarts; Bunty, Newt’s (Victoria Yeates) ever-faithful and adored assistant; and Yusuf Kama (William Nadylam), an African wizard from the Lestrange family tree, seeking a measure of personal revenge.

Queenie and Tina Goldstein (Alison Sudol and Katherine Waterston, respectively), two enchanting American witches who were Jacob and Newt’s main love interests in the first two episodes, also feature, but in disappointing roles. Queenie inexplicably joined Grindelwald’s group and Tina more or less “apparated” at the end of Crimes until she made a brief appearance here. Here’s hoping someone casts a spell on Rowling to bring them both back to the center of Chapter Four, because this series could use a little romance amid all the dark dealings going on.

The big change in Chapter Three is the “polyjuice” transformation of Grindelwald himself, from Johnny Depp to Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen. There are many rumors swirling about the reasons for Depp’s disappearance, the most logical one having to do with the ugly nature of his divorce from Amber Heard which inflamed his reputation. Mikkelsen, a fine actor, is an old hat to play heavyweights, from Bond villain Le Cipher in Casino Royale to serial killer Hannibal Lecter on the TV show “Hannibal”. He does a solid job of giving Grindelwald a sly, menacing charm, but I still missed Depp’s dastardly histrionics in the role. His Grindelwald looked like a villain straight out of the fantasy world of those movies. Mikkelsen looks depressingly too real, ripped from the headlines today.

In another life, Mike Orlock wrote movie reviews for The Journalist/Progress newspapers from the western suburbs of Chicago. He also taught high school English, coached basketball and is the author of three books of poetry. He is currently the Door County Poet Laureate.

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