This sequel picks up in 1927, after (a few years, I think?) the events of the first movie. Grindelwald (played by Johnny Depp), a wizard criminal who was imprisoned in the U.S. at the end of the first movie, is being transferred to Europe to stand trial there. Despite all the magical security measures put in place, Grindelwald manages to escape. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Magic in London wants to locate Credence Barebone, another character from the first movie who is a wizard brought up by a non-magical adopted family. Newt Scamander, played again by Eddie Redmayne, won't work with the Ministry to find Barebone, because they want to send a bounty hunter with him. However, when his old Hogwarts professor, Albus Dumbledore (played by Jude Law), asks him to go to Paris to find Barebone in order to save him from both the Ministry and Grindelwald, Newt agrees. Newt's American friends from the first movie, Jacob Kowalski and Queenie Goldstein, are also featured again in this movie and are still very much in love, though not allowed to marry since legal marriage is not allowed between wizards and Muggles (non-magical people). At the same time in Paris, an old school friend of Newt's named Leta Lestrange (played by Zoe Kravitz), who is now engaged to Newt's brother, is also looking for Credence Barebone, on the suspicion that he might possibly be her long-lost, long-thought-dead brother. Grindelwald's evil plan is for pureblood wizards to band together and take control of the entire world, wizards and non-wizards alike. All of these people and situations come together in Paris, along with a fun collection of Newt's magical creatures, ending in a climactic clash between good and evil.
Confused? So were we! It is a very complicated plot with a lot of different characters to keep track of. It would probably help if you watched this sequel soon after watching the first movie, but it's been almost a year for us. We enjoyed seeing some links to the Harry Potter books/movies, which take place about 80 years later, with familiar characters like Dumbledore, here as a young man, and well-known wizarding family names like Lestrange popping up here and there, as well as scenes of familiar Hogwarts. Law does a great job as a young Dumbledore, Depp is spooky as the criminal Grindelwald, and Redmayne is as charming as ever as kind, unassuming Newt. This second movie is far darker than the first, with much less fun whimsy and more evil. All three of us felt it was far too complex and difficult to keep us with, especially the first half of the movie. My son and I got into it in the second half, with lots of pressing pause to confirm what was going on and who was who, but my husband really didn't enjoy it. This movie is probably best for major fans of the Harry Potter universe and/or those who've watched the first Fantastic Beasts movie recently. There was clearly a set-up for another sequel, with an upcoming battle between Dumbledore and Grindelwald (that my son said was mentioned in the Harry Potter books as a major point of wizarding history). I'm not sure if we'll watch it or not. Perhaps if it comes out soon, while we still remember all the complicated details of this one!
NOTE: IMDB lists not only a Fantastic Beasts 3 but also a #4 and #5! The next sequel, #3, is due out in 2021.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is available on streaming and on DVD. It looks like HBO owns the rights currently, so it is included with HBO subscriptions, available to buy on streaming through Amazon for $14.99 or on DVD (the way we watched it). The first movie, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is available for streaming on Amazon for just $1.99 or on DVD. Definitely watch them both together, to avoid getting too confused!
I have to admit, the trailer is pretty enticing: