Like the magical creatures the title suggests, the movie Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is like a weird pop-culture chimera; mythological animals comprised of a goat, a lion, and a serpent. The Crimes of Grindelwald has several different identities too: it’s sequel to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, it’s a prequel to the Harry Potter mythology about Professor Dumbledore, and above all, is — in theory — a film about magic that presumably the whole family can enjoy. But is this last part true? Is Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald okay for kids? And if so, how young is too young for this Potterverse flick?
(Note: Very light spoilers for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald ahead.)
Opening on Friday in movie theaters everywhere, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald will continue the story of Magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and his fascination with magical creatures that range from totally adorable to completely terrifying. It will also continue the story of the bigotted and murderous wizard named Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) who is the immediate predecessor to Voldemort in terms of big-bad evildoers in the Harry Potter universe. Basically, Grindelwald thinks people who can do magic are better than people who can’t and is prepared to murder all the regular people. So, on the one hand, you’ve got cutesy magical creatures (the fantastic beast) and on the other hand, you’ve got wizard murder (the crimes of Grindelwald.) In this way, the title of this particular movie is shockingly honest and straightforward even though it’s totally convoluted at the same time. So, which part dominates? The Crimes or the Beasts?
Shocking no one, the dark deeds of Johnny Depp are the focus of the film, however, unlike its predecessor, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is not as scary as it seems. Yes, Johnny Depp is scary as Grindelwald, and yes, there is a very intense scene where his character murders a child, the film is overall not as scary as other installments in the long-running Harry Potter series. And, in terms of the scene just mentioned, this killing is not depicted on screen, merely suggested. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them had scenes of full-on child abuse, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald does not.
This isn’t to say this movie isn’t scary for children under the age of say 6 or 7 years-old. And that’s because you have to consider the source material. The very first Harry Potter book features a climax in which a trusted teacher at Hogwarts has a face growing out of the back of his head, and tries to murder Harry Potter. These are stories about wizards and witches and the dark magic that they wield, so let’s not get things twisted. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is about as scary as a medium-scary Harry Potter movie; like say, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, but slightly less scary than Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.
So, if you’ve got little ones who have memorized all the Potter books and loved the first Fantastic Beasts movie, you’re probably fine. But, if your kids are new to this whole thing, be warned, The Crimes of Grindelwald isn’t messing around with that title, and most of these magical crimes are murder.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is out in wide release in movie theaters on Friday, November 16.