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Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
Album Cover Art
Composed and Co-Produced by:

Co-Orchestrated and Conducted by:
Pete Anthony

Co-Orchestrated by:
Jeff Atmajian
Jon Kull
Peter Boyer
Philip Klein
John Ashton Thomas

Co-Produced by:
Xander Rodzinski
Jim Weidman
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WaterTower Music
(November 9th, 2018)
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Regular U.S. release. The CD album was released three weeks after the identical contents of the download option.
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Buy it... if you appreciate James Newton Howard's accomplished and mature fantasy sound regardless of its sometimes unfocused melodic attributions.

Avoid it... if you expect this score to feature the effervescent adventure, the breadth of style, and the satisfactory album situation of the previous entry in the franchise.
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WRITTEN 12/11/18
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Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald: (James Newton Howard) For the prequels to the "Harry Potter" books and series of films, author J.K. Rowling envisioned five "Fantastic Beasts" movies, the first of which, 2016's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a solid cinematic success. The same magic was lost with the first sequel, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, in 2018, however, audiences and critics lamenting the movie's overly complicated backstory and excess of characters. The same group of magical heroes and villains returns for the second film, the wizarding world continuing to battle the rise of Grindelwald, a dangerous populist consolidating power to encourage the magical realm's emergence and control over the larger muggle population. It's a poignant message in the divisive contemporary times of the late 2010's, but some of its impact is lost with the introduction of too many new characters on which the plot dwells without lasting purpose. Still, the movie allows a glimpse into Hogwarts and its famed professors 60 years prior to the first Harry Potter story, and there are multitudes of nuggets devised by Rowling to keep concept enthusiasts busy with speculation. Director David Yates thankfully settled upon composer James Newton Howard for the "Fantastic Beasts" films, the best choice aside from John Williams himself to continue the music of the franchise into this different time. Starting with Lady in the Water and maturing completely in Maleficent, Howard's fantasy style of the time has established a voice unlike any peer, his exploration of this music becoming frequent enough for some spoiled listeners to take it for granted. One such related score with numerous highlights, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, would have been heralded to a far greater degree if composed ten years earlier. Undoubtedly, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them has aged well as a score, its expansive and sometimes confusing thematic attributions becoming clearer with time and deserving of increased appreciation. Howard hit the sweet spot in his emulation of Williams' themes and mannerisms while developing his own fantasy style, yielding a remarkably effective sound for the concept that is satisfyingly distinctive but consistent with precedent.

Howard's formula for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald remains much the same, as do the positive and negative attributes that result. The symphonic, choral, and electronic ambience is pitch-perfect, the first two elements intelligently mixed with frequency and the electronics applied primarily as bass region enhancers at choice times of suspense. The composer is still not afraid to apply loud percussion as needed for brutal sequences, too. Solo piano continues to supply character warmth, as does cooing, higher choral tones that punctuate the score's inherent sadness. The primary derogatory criticism of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald's score will involve Howard's thematic assignments. At the very least, the additional music in the concept illuminates his intentions in the prior film, but dissatisfaction will remain with Howard's overarching handling of these motific duties. Some of these issues must reside with Yates, but even Howard's new themes for the sequel aren't particularly memorable, compounding confusion carrying over from the prior entry. The direct infusion of John Williams music is sloppier in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald as well, the reference to Hedwig's theme over the opening logos acceptable, if not a tad faint, but the interpolations of that theme and the secondary one for Hogwarts not well handled in the introductory scene involving the castle. Hedwig's primary phrases are erroneously applied to the setting, and the castle's variation on the idea rushes into its concluding phrase awkwardly as Hogwarts is first witnessed. Later scenes at the castle don't even hint at the theme in subtle guises, which is an immense disappointment. Howard does better at reprising his own character themes, though spotting sessions must have revealed few opportunities to do so given the excess of characters in the story. The main theme from the prior film continues to represent both Newt and the wizarding world as a whole, and Howard applies it quite well in the sequel. It receives cultural and action variants this time while continuing to represent Newt's awkwardness in lighter moments. Howard includes this melody as one of three solo piano performances of the film's main themes; these tracks are included on the album (and were offered separately prior to the full album) but are not heard in the film.

Howard once again reveals a tendency to repeat phrases in his themes twice in The Crimes of Grindelwald, though in this outing he occasionally shifts the second performance to a different key or instrumental palette. Not surprisingly, the jazzy incarnations of the main theme, a representation of the New York setting of the prior movie, are gone. It takes a while in the narrative for the composer to state the main identity, its optimistic yet reserved performance at 1:51 into "Newt and Jacob Pack for Paris" leading the way. A French-laden interpretation of the idea for the arrival in Paris is Howard's continued method of introducing each Ministry of Magic setting with that theme, though don't expect to hear that cue on the album. The fascinating "Nagini" cue reminds us that this future Horcrux for Voldemort is herself a beast, as the main theme is twisted into a slithery, carnivalesque rendition at 3:24 that even strays towards Williams' Hedwig theme at 3:33. The main theme is spotlighted in upbeat variants again in "Traveling to Hogwarts," a cue partly replaced with the Williams material on screen. Another sneaky interpolation of the idea's structure is included at 0:15 into "Your Story is Our Story," and the theme is afforded dramatically subdued rhythmic duties at 0:22 into "Leta's Confession." The theme's melody is barely recognizable at the start of "Visions of War," a hint that Grindelwald's vision of the magical world is not too familiar. Two resounding symphonic and choral performances of the idea resonate solidly at the conclusion of the film, including the climactic moment of victory at 3:41 into "Wands into the Earth" and the redemptive dramatic moment at 3:55 into "Restoring Your Name." Newt's adventure theme from the prior score is reprised in both its main melody and in its associated buoyant ostinato rhythms. That ostinato bursts forth at 0:17 into "The Kelpie," albeit as a variation that leads to a singular beast-specific melody reminiscent of the first score's equivalents. That spirited ostinato is fully reprised and joined by its gorgeous choral and woodwind theme at the start of both "Newt and Jacob Pack for Paris" and the short end credits cue, "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald," the latter expanding upon the idea. More satisfying are the clear renditions of the adventure theme as heard at 0:03 into "Capturing the Zouwu," 1:15 into "Matagots," and 2:04 into "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald."

Also explored expertly in The Crimes of Grindelwald is Howard's love theme for Newt and Tina, though don't expect this idea to soar to any degree close to the previous score's treatment of the melody, as the script here simply doesn't allow for it. Howard does use the theme to smartly pinpoint clues as Newt searches for Tina throughout the first half of the film. It first appears in fragments at 1:25 and 1:55 into "Newt Tracks Tina," expressing Newt's hopelessly romantic memories of her in the lovely orchestration and choral touch. The same technique continues briefly at 1:03 into "Capturing the Zouwu." As Newt finally confesses his feelings to Tina in the opening half of "Salamander Eyes," Howard returns to the full, heartful piano solo renditions of the idea from the first film. The most interesting statement of the theme is counter-intuitive but potentially brilliant. During the revealing scene of Nagini, which Tina witnesses, Howard twists her love theme into the realm of tragedy and awe with magnificent bravado at 2:42 into "Nagini," a highlight of the score. Meanwhile, each of the three themes Howard conjured for the Queenie and Jacob characters returns, but only briefly in every case. The affable tuba-led theme for Jacob is reduced to a short woodwind reference at 1:35 in "Newt and Jacob Pack for Paris" on the album, though the character has other interactions in which his material may have sneaked into the film. (No music recorded for the early Jacob and Queenie arrival scene is on the album.) Their love theme makes one very notable appearance on solo voice throughout "Queenie Searches for Jacob," featured at the forefront of the devastating scene and interrupted by the dissonance of Grindelwald's material. It's a lovely, heartbreaking cue of frustration and sadness. Queenie's own theme has always been more elusive, but Howard makes a very notable use of this identity at 2:45 into "Spread the Word," as she and Jacob are separated by philosophy and fire. This electronically-aided passage is, interestingly, related in tone to Alexandre Desplat's battle music from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2. The Obscurus material from the prior film is carried over primarily in "Irma and the Obscurus," where the Credence character receives a brief passage of this theme in lightly troubled strings at 0:36 as he feels brief hope at an answer about his past; echoes of this ascending melody fade away after the apocalyptic action sequence within that cue. The more typical, cyclical stewing of the idea returns at 2:59 into "Restoring Your Name" as the character is harvested by Grindelwald.

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Average: 3.78 Stars
***** 128 5 Stars
**** 132 4 Stars
*** 81 3 Stars
** 44 2 Stars
* 15 1 Stars
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Track Listings Icon
Total Time: 77:28
• 1. The Thestral Chase (8:04)
• 2. Newt and Leta (2:32)
• 3. Dumbledore (2:11)
• 4. The Kelpie (1:32)
• 5. Newt and Jacob Pack for Paris (2:27)
• 6. Nagini (4:15)
• 7. Newt Tracks Tina (2:27)
• 8. Queenie Searches for Jacob (1:35)
• 9. Irma and the Obscurus (2:56)
• 10. Blood Pact (2:29)
• 11. Capturing the Zouwu (1:33)
• 12. Traveling to Hogwarts (1:06)
• 13. Leta's Flashback (4:40)
• 14. Salamander Eyes (2:28)
• 15. Matagots (2:15)
• 16. Your Story is Our Story (3:21)
• 17. Leta's Confession (5:14)
• 18. Vision of War (3:49)
• 19. Spread the Word (4:01)
• 20. Wands Into the Earth (4:04)
• 21. Restoring Your Name (6:20)
• 22. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2:40)
• 23. Dumbledore's Theme (Piano Solo) (1:27)
• 24. Fantastic Beasts Theme (Piano Solo) (1:37)
• 25. Leta's Theme (Piano Solo) (2:04)

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The insert includes a list of performers and extensive photography from the recording sessions.
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or redistributed without the prior written authority of Christian Clemmensen at Filmtracks Publications. All artwork and sound clips from Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald are Copyright © 2018, WaterTower Music and cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 12/11/18 (and not updated significantly since).
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