Movie Review: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
Directed by: David Yates
Written by: J.K. Rowling

If you are a surface fan of Harry Potter its likely you may not see as many issues as I did. Of course, there are issues with the plot that have nothing to do with Harry Potter canon so… maybe not?

I don’t regret watching it. It was a fun way to spend a cold Sunday afternoon, but I’m not going to lie I had some issues.

** This is not a spoiler free review **

Full disclosure: I wouldn’t say I’m a huge Harry Potter fan but…

I’ve read the books, seen the movies, know I’m a Hufflepuff and have built my own wands using wooden dowels, hot glue and brown paint. I’m probably more of a fan than the average person on the street. I also dressed up as Newt Scamander for Halloween this year.

In Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald we find Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) maybe six months after they events of the first film. Grindelwald has escaped and he continuing to gain followers as he seeks to rule the magical & muggle worlds. Newt is enlisted by a young Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) to protect Credence (who has somehow survived from the first film – don’t ask why I don’t know how either). Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) believes Credence to be the key to his master plan. Then there is a whole lot of convoluted plot to get us from Point A to Point B that turns out doesn’t mean anything and is really just there to fill out a movie.

I took some issues with the film.

Upon leaving the theater my friend turned to me and asked “So what were his crimes?” and I couldn’t even answer. Grindelwald does a whole lot of talking in this film and that’s about it. At the end, the Aurors even make it a point to explain that “listening to him isn’t a crime”. So, what were his crimes?

I upon leaving the theater suggested that perhaps it was time for J.K. Rowling to reread her book series or at least refer back to her notes. It’s okay if you don’t remember something you’ve written in the past, but J.K. Rowling likes to portray herself and this all-knowing author. Every step is meticulously planned out and she knows exactly where she’s going with every move. I would like to enter in The Crimes of Grindelwald as exhibit A that her previous assertions are false.

This entire film was one huge retcon of everything that had come before it. Considering Harry Potter and The Cursed Child is a thing that exists… it’s actually less surprising that J.K. is the single greatest threat to her own work.

With the entire controversy over the character of Nagini (Claudia Kim), I expected her to play a large role in this film. She does not. The character utterly fails the Sexy Lamp Post test. The story would have progressed in exactly the same way whether or not she existed in this story.  Nagini had more agency as Voldemort’s pet snake then she did as a human woman. That’s a problem.

The treatment of Leta Lestrange (Zoë Kravitz) as a prop in the stories of the Scamander brothers is a problem. At Hogwarts she was a close and dear friend of Newt’s. Now as adults she is engaged to Newt’s brother, Theseus. Yet, as the film is just about to make her a person with her own complexities and agencies… she dies. Her death serves the singular purpose of motivating the men in her life. Leta’s last words, a declaration of love would have meant more if it had not been so muddled with the idea that we don’t know which Scamander she truly loves. A toy for two brothers to fight over in the sandbox. Leta Lestrange deserved better.

I feel like I’m begin harsh and I don’t mean to be.  There’s one particular moment in the film when we return to Hogwarts. There’s a large sweeping view of the castle as Hedwig’s theme plays and it did make my heart feel warm. It was fun to catch all the little Easter eggs hidden away, yet it’s not enough to save it. In fact, it hiders the film and the entire franchise. If you’re constantly trying to remind the audience that this is a spin-off of a franchise, they already love… well you’re stopping these films from ever being divorced from the comparisons.

One of the more obvious Easter eggs which hurt the film with its glaringly inconsistencies, was the presences of a young Professor McGonagall. A character who shouldn’t even be born for another decade or so. It seems in attempting to poke the fans with a fun cameo all it’s done is confuse the timeline in ways that even a mad man with a blue box would shake his head at and say “I’m not getting involved”.

Honestly, if I had had my way the Fantastic Beast films would have been a nature documentary focused on Newt and his travels. That’s the strength of the character and the strength of the story. To shoe horn in a Dumbledore/Grindelwald story that would serve better as its own limited run series overcrowds things. It’s unnecessary.

Much of this movie was unnecessary actually. It watched as a film that was put together way too fast and no one took a pair of editing scissors to anything in attempt to streamline unnecessary details and plot paths.

Side Note: I’m pretty sure that’s NOT how obliviate works.

Yet, I encourage others to go watch the film for themselves and to make up their own minds. This is surely one of those films which will have very differing viewpoints.

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