Fantasic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald - Review

The Harry Potter stories are very important to me. They helped shape me, like Star Wars, Doctor Who and superheroes. So naturally I wanted more of that world. But everything outside of the base Potter story has been a disappointment so far. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald is no exception. It might be one of the most insulting additions to the Potter franchise in fact. There will be SPOILERS throughout. 

I'll say this right up front: The Crimes Of Grindelwald is nowhere near as bad as Harry Potter And The Cursed Child. The Cursed Child took the canon and put it through a meat grinder, and then blasted the millions of pieces into space where they all individually suffocated, before disappearing completely. The Crimes Of Grindelwald is merely guilty of taking the canon, beating to an inch of its life, and then leaving for dead in the ally.

The film is very bloated. There are way too many characters. Most have no significance in the grand scheme of things. We are meant to automatically care for these nameless one time characters, and don't. It made things way too overly complicated.

The characters that do return, that you want to care about, are shells of what their potential could be. First of all, Queenie's (Alison Sudol) journey seems incredibly forced. Her turning to an extremist in league with Grindelwald was just not a natural step in the progression. Newt (Eddie Redmayne) was fine, but he was caught in this weird love triangle, and even that was put on the back burner for other stories.

Tina Goldstein came off as angry the entire film. They didn't solve the "Newt isn't getting married" misunderstanding until way too late in the film. Then there was no payoff after that. She was utterly wasted. 

Perhaps the least egregious strike against the canon was the return of Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler).  Don't get me wrong, he is the best character in the Beasts franchise (which says something that a Muggle/No-Maj is the best part of the Wizarding World!) But all of a sudden memory charms only take away bad memories, as opposed to all of them. That was never a thing. If that was a thing, Gilderoy Lockhart would still have most of his memories. It was convoluted way to bring back someone for a contract fulfillment.

The timeline is a bit wonky too. What makes Dumbledore (Jude Law) go from looking like a hipster Wall Street executive in a 3 piece suit, to a long bearded wizard with shiny robes?

The forced addition of many Potter era characters for no reason takes away from the story too. A young McGonagall was not needed, nor am I dead sure that it fits the timeline. Nicolas Flamel was pointless, it was nothing but a franchise name drop. Having Zoe Kravitz's Leta be a Lestrange also ties her to this history that should be separate instead.

But the two biggest blunders are Nagini and Credence. Making Nagini a human instead of a random snake that Voldemort found in the jungle and befriended is something nobody needed. It makes things with Voldemort infinitely more creepy because now Nagini is a woman being held against her will by a horcrux from Voldemort. 

Of course, the big reveal at the end - that Credence (Ezra Miller) is actually a Dumbledore is a huge jump the shark moment. It would be utterly unforgivable -if The Cursed Child didn't exist. Compared to that, the Dumbledore reveal is a welcome addition. But again, it's not needed. The Credence mystery could be intriguing by itself as a new thing. An obscurial is a novel concept, and something that can be explored and be unrelated to Potter. This retconning of Dumbledore's history makes things worse.

There were a few positives though. As with most movies, nothing is 100% in one direction. The new creatures introduced were awesome. If these movies were truly about rescuing them, and collecting research, it could be a cool adventure franchise. Instead, they are serving as a Potter prequel, and the Beasts franchise has an identity crisis because of it. Viewed in a vacuum - with no knowledge of anything Harry Potter it would be slightly better. But it still convoluted and overly complicated.

None of this even has anything to do with the questionable casting of Johnny Depp, who was stiff as ever. The allegations leave me sour on him to begin with, but the lack of effort on his part makes Grindelwald nowhere close to his Potter counterpart.

There are supposed to be 3 more Beasts movie. They better take a step back and make a decision as to what they want these movies to accomplish, and what they want this story to tell. Because it is blatantly obvious that they have no idea.

If you're a Potter fan, make up your own mind. Maybe you will see something I didn't.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald is in theaters now.


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