Admittedly, I most likely was too kind to Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindlewald when I gave it just two and a half out of five.
I realized this when, about ten minutes into Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, I struggled immensely to remember what actually happened in the previous film (apparently Zoè Kravitz was in the film). Thankfully, I remembered just enough to understand what was happening on screen.
While it should not come as a surprise, coming into this Set some time after its predecessor, we still see the lovable familiar face of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), as he is doing what he does best: caring for a rare magical creature called a Qilin (a creature with the ability to stare into one’s soul). This creature may be the key to the future of Gellert Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen, taking over the role formally played by Johnny Depp). We learned in the last movie that Grindlewald and Dumbledore had a magical pact not to duel each other (and Potterheads know going in how Dumbledore really feels about Grindlewald). That said, Dumbledore needs the help of Newt and company to help make sure Grindelwald does not gain political power (it does not take much to see how well positioned this film would have been if it was released in November 2020 as intended, but COVID had other plans.)
Between the original Potter films and the current three spin-off films, there are not many positives that both share. One thing for sure is the casting (the best for me being the late great Alan Rickman as Snape). We get some familiar faces from the last two films, such as Newt’s older brother Theseus (Callum Turner), Ezra Miller as Creedance, and the still lovable couple of Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol) and Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler).
The biggest change to the film, of course, is Mikkelsen. After behind the scene controversies with Depp, he was eventually replaced by Mikkelsen. Mads has stated that he did not want to do a complete copy of Depp’s performance, which is for the better. Depp’s version of Grindelwald (considered to be the most evil wizard in history before the time of Voldemort) is more over the top and almost cartoonish (much like Ralph Fiennes did as Voldemort). Mads is much more subtle, and seems almost humanistic in his portrayal (until we see the evil he does and we remember not to root for him). It is an upgrade to the series.
Parents, there is no sexuality or swearing (unless you are British and consider “bloody” a swear). One thing that clearly makes the film a PG-13 is some of the imagery and violence. Especially in one scene in a cave. There is a creature that will most likely traumatize any viewers younger than the age of nine or so.
The spin off films are note worthy in that the creator of the Wizarding Universe, J.K. Rowling, did the screenplays. So, yeah, she knows what is most needed for these characters. I am still not sure how I feel about a potential two more films for this series (heaven knows it did not help Middle Earth with The Hobbit Trilogy). Unlike the last film, I did leave this one having a little bit of faith left in the magic.