What we first learn about Albus is that back in his youth he had a very close friendship with fellow wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen), who has now turned to the dark side and wants to be chief wizard and rule the world of the Muggles (that’s us ordinary humans, just in case you don’t know). And Albus’s job is to stop him. Just like a 007 movie really.
As one who however mentally withdrew from Rowling’s fantasy world halfway through the Harry Potter series, I rather lost track of parts of the complicated plot after that, not helped by some of the actors adopting the fashionable “mumble” of current movie realism, presumably under the instruction of director David Yates. There’s a lot of back story in the dialogue which is not always easy to hear.
Also involved in the saga is Eddie Redmayne, returning as fantastic creatures expert Newt Scamander. One of his jobs is to assist at the birth of twin Qilin (pronounced chillin), cute babies who resemble a cross between a tiny dragon and a baby deer with melting Bambi eyes. They have an important role to play in Grindelwald’s ambition. Newt also has a delightful scene rescuing his imprisoned brother Theseus (Callum Turner), which involves a bizarre troupe of dancing scorpion like creatures.
Others making an impression include Dan Fogler as Muggle New York grocer Jacob Kowalski, Jessica Williams as American witch Eulalie ‘Lally’ Hicks, newly recruited to the team and Ezra Miller, (impressive in the title role of We Need to Talk about Kevin), as Credence Barebone. Mikkelson is an imposing presence as Grindelwald, though he doesn’t really have a lot of heavy acting to do apart from looking scary.
The real impact of the film is in the fact that it looks magnificent. For some reason it appears to be set in the thirties and the female members of the cast, who apart from Williams have little to do, get to wear some totally gorgeous gowns.
Most importantly however, although the story spans three continents ranging from Germany and Austria to New York, China and Bhutan, rather than searching out locations, production designers Stuart Craig and Neil Lamont have done an amazing job of creating what look like totally authentic, detailed and delicious looking sets all on the sound stages of Leavesden in Watford. They are absolutely mind blowing.