A funny thing happened while I was watching Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald…
It happened when Newt Scamander was getting ready to leave London for Paris. Surprised by an unexpected visit from Jacob and Queenie, the scene plays out with Jacob under an enchantment cast by Queenie to keep him in love with her (as if she doesn’t know he loves her already). As J.K. Rowling – writer and stretcher of the series from three movies to five – reintroduces these benign secondary characters, an eerie sense of familiarity made itself known. I realised I didn’t need to be reintroduced to them, to have their relationship explained to me in the wake of the events of the first movie. To paraphrase the Bard, “I knew them, Horatio.”
In fact, I knew all the characters, and all the situations they were about to find themselves in. I knew their back stories without having to be told them, I knew the inter-relationships and the things that had brought them together, and why. I knew all this as if by osmosis, as if it had all dropped fully formed into my mind from the moment i saw Grindelwald apparently trapped in a cell he couldn’t escape from. Cinematic shorthand? Watching too many movies for my own good? Possibly (on both counts). But this led me to an idea I don’t remember ever having before while watching a first sequel: did I really need to have seen Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them before seeing this installment? And I had to answer, No.
So, the question remains: is it necessary to watch the first movie before this one? I think not, which makes Newt Scamander’s first outing something of an anomaly: a movie that is superfluous to the ones that follow in its wake. Now how often can you say that?