‘Fantastic Beasts’ casts a spell

I like it when sequels continue the storyline without losing the appeal of the original. That is why I relished every moment of the all-new “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald,” a follow-up to the 2016 release.

The story picks up a couple of years later, when Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) awakens after ingesting a love potion. The spell leaves him with the exact same feelings for Queenie (Alison Sudol) who orchestrated the spell to ensure their compatibility as a couple. The pair enjoy each other’s company, but Kowalski cannot be with Queenie because he is considered a “No Mag,” or non-magical, which means a real-life relationship is out of the question.

 Eddie Redmayne stars in “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.”

Eddie Redmayne stars in “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.”

The storyline in “Crimes of Grindelwald” focuses on Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) who faces off against Johnny Depp’s Grindelwald. Scamander does not usually get involved in such human matters. He prefers to be more of the observer type and avoid conflict. Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) has plans for Scamander, but due to an unwritten rule, cannot interfere in the situation.

Another part of this tale involves Newt’s relationship with Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston). The pair share great chemistry that sizzles on the big screen.

David Yates returns to direct “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” in yet another well-shot, made-for-the-big-screen tale that looks simply amazing on the IMAX screen. Like in the earlier chapter, Oscar-winning cinematographer Philippe Rousselot returns. He won an Oscar for shooting Robert Redford’s familial slice-of-life, fly-fishing tale “A River Runs Through It” in 1992.

Those familiar with the Harry Potter universe will feel right at home here, since “Grindelwald” makes direct references to some of the past characters. Viewers are treated to vistas of Hogwart’s Academy throughout this fun and involving flick.

As far as modern sequels go, I put this one close to the top. To me, when things of significance happen in the fantasy genre, it’s because the filmmakers have to bring their best foot forward and create something significant. I particularly enjoyed Guillermo Del Toro’s “Blade II” from 2002. It perfectly blended the bloodsucker lore from the comic book genre with modern-day Los Angeles. Del Toro’s film “Pacific Rim” also explored the fantasy element with robots punching giant monsters in the face.

I admire what Yates did with the material in “Grindelwald” and look forward to seeing what he and writer J.K. Rowling bring to the future chapters of these tales.

Grade: A-