From the get-go, “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” makes it clear that the new installment of J.K. Rowling’s “Fantastic Beasts” franchise will be gloomier and heavier than the first film, a playful romp set in New York during the age of jazz.
Katherine Waterston, who returns to her role as Auror and gumshoe Tina Goldstein, acknowledges that the darker themes are relevant to the current state of the world.
“We’re in a time where we’re totally bewildered by things that are happening and very desperate to understand what motivates people and to relate to ways of thinking that may be very disturbing for many of us,” Waterston tells The Japan Times. “I think this film really shows us how we can be seduced and manipulated by people in power.”
In the latest film, Johnny Depp’s villainous Grindelwald seeks to usher in a world where wizards take their rightful place as rulers of both the magical and nonmagical realms. Eddie Redmayne’s adorably awkward Newt Scamander and Tina, along with Tina’s sister Queenie (Alison Sudol) and “No-Maj” Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), travel to Paris to stop Grindelwald from recruiting Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller), an orphan with powerful destructive abilities.
The books and films of the beloved “Harry Potter” series and its spinoffs are ultimately entertainment geared toward children and young adults, but Waterston notes that they don’t shy away from tackling difficult issues.
“The original ‘Harry Potter’ series is incredibly complex and dark and scary. (J.K. Rowling) is educating us about the world we live in and the struggles that each and every individual human being is faced with,” says Waterston. “It takes these heavier themes and contextualizes them in a way that is somehow palatable and bearable for even children to contend with.
“The series shows us that children are not afraid of challenging ideas and are really eager to understand what makes people the way they are.”
On a more lighthearted note, since the “Fantastic Beasts” films have expanded the adventures in the wizarding world from the U.K. to the U.S. and France, Waterston hopes there’s a possibility that audiences will get to see more magic from Asia in the future. She insists she’s as in the dark as everyone else on where the series will go but, “we do see a Chinese beast in this film so I wondered if that was a hint that we might be going east. There’s so much rich amazing cultural history in Asia and there’s so much to explore. I think it has to happen.”
After all, it’s the scope and depth of the fantasy world that the “Fantastic Beasts” films bring to life that drew Waterston to the project.
“The thing that I thought was most exciting about this series was that it opened up the wizarding world to a global scale and made me want to go everywhere,” she says. I want to know how everybody’s wizarding world functions and the different governments with different rules, languages, magic and beasts.”
As the magical world grows, the fans remain as avid as ever for more details from Rowling. Waterston admits she felt some trepidation joining a franchise with a fervent fan base that’s already intimately familiar with the magical world of wizards.
“I like to think of it like I was a new player on a well-loved sports team,” she says. The fans are there before you get there but they’re rooting for you to succeed. They’re devoted in a true way through all the ups and downs.”