Eddie Redmayne's back as bashful hero Newt Scamander in JK Rowling's second adventure. 4/5 stars
He is as boyishly enthusiastic and endearingly gawky as before and the magical creatures and places he encounters have been conjured up with the same spellbinding cinematic wizardry.
Yet as Newt and his friends are drawn deeper into the gathering storm brewed by Johnny Depp’s dark wizard Grindelwald, there is a sense that on this occasion Rowling’s prodigious fertility of invention has slightly overwhelmed her story’s narrative drive.
It is 1927 and good and evil wizards are seeking Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller), the abused young wizard whose formerly repressed magic possesses immense destructive power. He in turn is seeking the solution to the mystery of his parentage. Meanwhile, the British Ministry of Magic is urging Newt to join the hunt, hoping Credence will lead them to the fugitive Grindelwald. Jude Law’s Albus Dumbledore also wants him to get involved, but Newt insists he doesn’t do sides.
However, Newt comes to realise the threat of evil is so great that staying neutral isn’t an option.
The parallels with the fight against fascism in the 1920s and 30s are clear – and it’s probable that Rowling wants us to register analogies with the present, too. There is much to chew on here, but the density of ideas does get in the way of streamlined adventure.
All the same, the film’s spectacular effects and gorgeous production design are wondrous and Redmayne’s Newt remains a hero to cherish.