Albus Dumbeldore is a young professor at Hogwarts School; the charismatic but evil Gellert Grindelwald is determined to manipulate the world for his own ends; and Newt Scamander, with his magical suitcase of strange creatures, is trying to stop him.
The wizarding world created by J.K. Rowling returns to the big screen this week with “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald,” and its dark themes are grounded firmly in the real world.
Set in 1927, some 70 years before Rowling’s best-selling “Harry Potter” books and movies, “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” is the second in a spinoff movie series that explores the fight between good and evil, and between tolerance and acceptance.
“The thing that has always been extraordinary about (Rowling’s) work is people relate to aspects of it, whether it is specific character traits or vulnerabilities or a political climate,” said Eddie Redmayne, who plays Scamander.
“Yet she shrouds it in this world that is so magical and sort of wonderful that you don’t feel like you’re being hit by it until you start thinking about it afterwards,” the actor told.
Rowling has said that the rise of populist politics in modern times was on her mind when she began writing the screenplays for the first two movies, but she has not said if she had a specific person or country in mind. The new film’s 1927 setting sees Grindelwald, played by Johnny Depp, address huge rallies that incite his followers to violence.
“One of the things that Grindelwald does so well is that he has an insane goal. But… he makes it sound so reasonable,” said Alison Sudol, who plays mind-reader Queenie Goldstein in the movie.
Zoe Kravitz, who plays Scamander’s love interest Leta Lestrange, said she thought the Grindelwald character could be modeled after any kind of person with seductive power. Whatever the inspiration, Depp was a good choice to play him, Kravitz said.
“He is so charismatic and intelligent and I think he’s the perfect person to play a villain like this. He’s so kind of seductive in a way,” she said.