Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald Review

 

This week I had the chance to see the latest film in the Harry Potter universe- Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, and I immediately put up my review on youtube (please subscribe). I was pretty harsh in my initial thoughts but as I have had 2 days to think about it, I don’t think I was harsh enough. I walked out of the theater exhausted and completely baffled. My assumption at the time is this movie must be made for people more aware of the lore than I am, so they will like it. However, I have talked with many hard core fans who are bitterly disappointed, which makes me come to the conclusion that it is just a colossal misfire.

I was not a big fan of the first Fantastic Beasts film but it had some positive traits. I liked Queenie and Jacob’s relationship and story, and some of the setting/new lore was fun and whimsical. My main problems with it was Newt as a protagonist (would have made a better side character), Newt’s mumbling was hard to understand, the tone was all over the place and the final reveal was very underwhelming. That said, this new film makes the first film seem like a masterpiece! (Also I remember being so bored watching Harry Potter Deathly Hallows pt 1. Little did I know how good I had it. I at least understood that one)
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It’s hard for me to tell you all that is wrong with the movie because I was so confused the entire time that my brain hurt. There are so many characters each with their own plots making the story impossible to follow. It kind of reminded me of the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels, which left me with a similar sense of exhaustion.

The original Harry Potter book and movies were  mysteries in the world of magic. Harry was presented with a problem that they had to follow the clues and find the solution for. As they searched their characters grew and the many side characters made the experience rewarding. Despite them being in a series each entry had a sense of of its own story and identity. Not so here.

To begin with, the good parts of the original film are immediately done away with. All 4 of the main characters are divided up and what they do with Queenie and Jacob doesn’t make sense and is underserved at best. Instead of being charming, Queenie was nonsensical and Jacob was just watching stuff happen. They also immediately leave America so what was the point of setting up all that lore and unique identity for American wizardry?

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Then we get to meet Jude Law as Dumbledore, and he does a good job but it didn’t feel like the Hogwarts we know and love. Why is Dumbledore wearing muggles clothing? What is going on? The advertising would have you believe this Dumbledore is a major part of the movie but they cut away from him so much it is at best an ensemble role.

Zoe Kravitz plays Leta Lestrange and we jump around from seeing her as a child and then an adult and back again. Maybe we will get some reveal in the next movie that will clarify things, but I was completely lost by her character. Then we had Tina, Nagini (which don’t get me started on her weird undercooked storyline), Krall, Nagel, Professor McGonagall shows up for no reason, Nicolas Flamel, Newt’s brother is a major character, Credence is a major character that made no sense. The list goes on and on. I haven’t been this baffled by a fantasy film since Warcraft. It’s true…

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And then we have Johnny Depp as Grindelwald. I was nervous about his performance because him in white face in fantasy films has gotten so boring. In fairness, he is fine with what is given him but what on earth is he talking about all the time? They are obviously trying to set him up as some kind of Hitler type character but they show scenes from the muggles, which they never do in Harry Potter. His speeches were incoherent gibberish and then I was never clear is he using magic to control people or are they acting under their own agency when drawn to him?

The ads keep telling fans to #ProtecttheSecrets. I legitimately have NO IDEA what secrets we are supposed to be keeping. There is a reveal at the end that I guess is a big deal but it made no sense and the more I thought about it the more it irritated me. I guess it is a secret but it’s a nonsensical secret so no loss there?

In recent years JK Rowling has begun to George Lucas herself. She finished her saga on just the right note and then she started Pottermore and it was all downhill from there. Instead of leaving her world for her readers to imagine and play with she made an alteration here or there. She caved to fans and answered questions that didn’t need to be answered. With each reveal some of the mystery was taken away and the magic lost.

Then the first film came out and she didn’t have a screenwriter to edit her down and it was a bit of a mess. Then she gave her permission to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child to be included as canon and it was very messy. Finally we get this and the universe is seriously damaged. My Potterhead friend was very upset about it, and I feel for her. It’s something we Star Wars fans have dealt with twice now and it is very disappointing.

I know it is technically the creators right to add to their creation as much as they want, but I so wish they wouldn’t. I don’t know if it is greed or a perfectionism that pushes them to make changes but it really hurts the wonder and appeal of the world they have so carefully created. They might think they are helping their fans by providing new content but they are truly breaking their hearts. I know they won’t stop but they should. Sigh…

Some may like spending 2 hours and 13 minutes in this mass of confusion and plotlines and that’s fine. For me, I’m struggling to find a reason to not include Crimes of Grindelwald in my worst of the year list. I still find Newt hard to understand so I don’t even have that to pluck it up like I do with other franchises (Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom or The Meg for example).

It’s just terrible and I’m sad. The end.

Also this is not a movie for children. Take the PG-13 seriously.

frown

 

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19 thoughts on “Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald Review

  1. I actually liked it but preferred the first one, had some issues with this one, and get why people hated it. I know that’s a pretty nuanced opinion for the internet but my brain keeps working that way more and more I actually like Newt as a lead character just because as someone with my own social awkwardness I can kinda see myself in him and this one actually cemented my love of him, especially the charmingly dorky love confession between him and Tina. I like Jacob and Queenie’s plot at the beginning because I found their first scene charming and I found that there was something to the whole ‘longing to love and marry who you want’ plotline that a discussion between them in the beginning actually had me almost in tears (I’m in a weird headspace right now so that might be partially to blame for any weird emotional reactions I have to movies. lol) But I felt like they stumbled with their subplot in the middle and I was a bit let down with how it ended (or didn’t?) I mean, I get the intention of that move in a way but it rubbed me the wrong way a little. Also, as someone who’s thought that some of the Potter movies went on for too long, I almost think this needed a little more to it for some characters, like the idea with Nagini was… weird… but then they did borderline nothing with her character which I honestly can’t tell how that will add to or counteract the initial controversary around that creative decision. I love the 3D and score like I did with the first movie and I’m interested to see if the sequels might fill some things out better and if re-watches might help it a bit, but there were some awkward choices that will probably still bug me even with me liking it. I will say that the ‘Standing around in a mausoleum for 20 minutes revealing things about who this or that character is or isn’t borderline drove me crazy and the ending made me ‘wait? what?’ Not always the biggest Jude Law fan but I really liked him as Dumbledore and Johnny Depp didn’t totally hurt the movie like I thought he would, he wasn’t in it that much I thought actually and he was fine-ish even if I would’ve preferred keeping Colin Farrell (it would’ve made his stuff with Credence at the end feel more natural in my opinion.) I also want a real Niffler and/or real Baby Nifflers but I don’t know if that’s any bearing on the quality of the movie, but it’s an important fact about what I got out of the movie anyway! lol

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    1. I’m a long time HP fan. But I was already grown up when I discovered the Potter novels while reading them with my son. Therefore HP is not a cherished and profound childhood experience since I didn’t grow up with the novels and the movies. Maybe, that’s the reason why I don’t feel so protective of the Potter-verse, and I don’t mind a certain amount of retconning. JKR created the world after all, and she’s totally entitled to develop it further and take it into different direction.

      Other authors who have created fantasy worlds have done and still do so all the time. Tolkien for example worked on his world until the day he died and implemented many smaller and some very big changes. Some were for the better, others not so much. But he has never been criticized for playing around with his world. I sense a certain double standard here, since he was a professor and scholar of linguistics. One of the most deep and consequential changes he made was the integration of his children’s book “The Hobbit” into the larger context of his “Lord of the Rings” saga. The ring, which Bilbo found, was originally just a generic magic ring, which made those who wear it, invisible. It was neither good nor evil but just practical. But when Tolkien continued the saga he actually changed the text of “The Hobbit” for future editions in order to make it compatible with the LOTR novels. This is one of the most drastic and fascinating cases of retconning I know. But nobody criticized this. So, ifJKR feels the need to tinker with her world in order to expand the overall picture, I’m neither for or against it per se. It depends very much on the eventual outcome. And I think in the much debated case of the Fantastic-Beasts franchise it’s very important to wait until the story she wants to tell, is actually finished. We cannot criticize something which isn’t even complete, yet. Right now I’m still very confident that JKR knows what she is doing and where she wants to go with her story. The curious case of Nagini is a perfect example, where fans twist their knickers because they believe that Nagini’s story has become a travesty with maybe even a racist subtext. But so far we just know that in the 1920s there is a young woman called Nagini who is condemned by a blood curse to turn permanently into a snake at some point in her life. I agree that the thought that Voldi’s evil pet snake may have once been a beautiful but cursed woman, is slightly nauseating. But so far we can’t know at all if that will actually happen and if Voldi’s Nagini is really identical with Claudia Kim’ character. I could think of many different developments of this story, since I have a hunch that Claudia Kim’s character will probably try to fight this curse – maybe even with Dumbledore’s help. She is in Hogwarts after all at the end of FB 2. Then there is the mystery of Credence’s heritage and if he’s really a biological brother of Albus Dumbledore, as Grindelwald has hinted at. If Albus, Aberforth and Ariana really have a biological brother of whom nobody has ever heard before, it would indeed be a major change of Dumbledore’s family history. But again – we don’t know so far if Grindelwald’s words were true. While I don’t think that he was outright lying to Credence, I could also think of many different solutions for this conundrum. IMO JKR is a mystery writer who loves to construct complex and intricate plotlines, and she likes to drop clues as well as red herrings. I think she has done just that in a major way in “Crimes Of Grindelwald”. When we know the whole story we can decide if we like it or not and then trash her, but not before. Personally I’m very intrigued by the yarn JKR is spinning in the FB franchise, and so far I still trust her abilities to construct a great story – although I have to say that “The Cursed Child” is indeed terrible 😟. While JKR didn’t write it herself she should’ve never given her OK for that drivel, even if the live theater experience is allegedly great for those who could get a ticket. But the story should have never become canon. But the Fantastic-Beasts story isn’t finished, yet, and we should hold our horses until we know everything.

      So far I have just talked about the potential storyline of the FB franchise. But that doesn’t have anything to do with the question if “Crimes Of Grindelwald” is a good movie or not. It’s indeed very flawed IMO, and it’s probably true that JKR is better at writing novels than writing movie scripts. The movie is confusing to say the least and isn’t really a stand-alone movie at all. And without deep knowledge of the Potter-verse it’s also hard to understand what’s going on. That said, I saw it twice in the theater – and the second time I enjoyed it much more than the first time. Mainly because I understood the plot much better and could therefore enjoy the parts which actually worked very well, much better and the movie has to offer a lot of gorgeous scenes. It helps that I loved FB 1 and specifically Eddie Redmayne’s Newt Scamander very much. I also believe that JKR isn’t alles to blame that many found the film hard to understand. I have read her published script, which is of course different than the finished movie. And many scenes which definitely shouldn’t have ended up on the cutting floor, have been removed in order to make the film shorter and allow more screenings per day. This compromised the clarity of the movie seriously. So, David Yates and WB should be blamed, too, that the movie wasn’t offered in the best possible version. I hope this has a positive effect on the next installment. And while I regret that the upcoming movie has been pushed back for one year, there is a chance that several issues will get fixed.

      It’s a totally different question if it was really a great idea to introduce such a long and complicated story and such a profound expansion of the Potter-verse in the form of five movies and stretched out over nine (!) years. This is very tricky because the original young audience from FB 1 may very well grow out of their fandom and may not be interested in the story anymore when the last installment finally hits the theaters. Theater goes who have been eleven years old, will be 20 years old then – maybe even older when there are more delays. As we have seen with the Marvel Universe, this can work in some cases. But the big difference is that most of the Marvel movies worked very well as stand-alone movies, and one didn’t have to see them all in order to understand what’s going on. Only Thor 3 and Avengers 3 ended with serious cliffhangers and needed to be seen in order to understand “Avengers Endgame”. But at this point the fans had to wait only one more year until the final movie came out. So, that was an acceptable waiting period. I doubt that this will work equally well with the FB franchise.

      As I said already , I’m very much interested in the story JKR has in store for us. But the whole enterprise might’ve worked much better if she hadn’t chosen the medium cinema but had written five or more books instead. Then she would’ve been the only one in control of the story. I have no idea why she choose to write the scripts instead. Maybe, she shied away from writing so many lengthy novels again and wanted to try something new. She’s also writing her Cormoran-Strike series where the fourth hefty installment (Lethal White) just came out last year. She has definitely been busy, and writing scripts might’ve seemed less taxing.

      One final word on Johnny Depp as Grindelwald: this has unfortunately developed into a very toxic bone of contention, and it’s unlikely that this problem will go away anytime soon. Personally I can understand why JKR and WB kept Johnny Depp. While his personal life is a mess, it’s far from clear if he is really a wife beater. This is very much a he-said-she-said situation, where nothing is proven one way or the other. He seems to have been in a very toxic relationship with Amber Heard. But as long as nothing is proven, he should be considered innocent until proven guilty.
      That said, I don’t like this casting at all for artistic reasons. I think that, while Depp didn’t do an actually bad job with his character, he’s the wrong choice for Grindelwald. I find his interpretation totally distracting. I never see Gellert Grindelwald, the charismatic but evil master wizard, who was once loved by Albus Dumbledore. I only see Johnny Depp in a ridiculous costume, and it takes me out of the movie. I think that it would have been a much better idea to keep Colin Farrell as Grindelwald. He did a understated but masterful job as GrindelGraves. But I feel that this ship has sailed and that – unless something unexpected happens – we are stuck with Depp now. For me he is one of the bigger flaws of an already flawed movie. However, like others here, I still found much which I enjoyed, and I hope that the next movie will be better…

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      1. Interesting opinion. Thanks for sharing. I just found this movie to be completely exhausting and poorly written. The choices on characters was baffling. I actually enjoyed Cursed Child well enough as a fun time travel story but this was just the worst. JKR has the right to add on to her world. That doesnt mean it’s not exhausting for her to do so. If she wanted to write another book like Tolkein did that’s fine but the constant tinkering for what feels like empty political points is once again exhausting. She doesnt seem to trust her audience to answer their own questions and her constant retconning is obnoxious. I just find her Incredibly irritating as a human being. Again it is her right to do so. Also my right to not like it. Part of the fun of a mystery is some degree of ambivalence and now we are getting answers to questions that are dumb. I’m glad hard core fans are still invested but even many of those have finally reached their limit with JKR and her terrible screenwriting in Crimes of Grindelwald

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      2. I also didnt grow up with the Potterverse and am in general not much of a fantasy fan. I didnt like Fantastic Beasts 1 nor Newt’s character. This was just the final nail in the coffin as far as my interest in this world.

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      3. Rachel, if you are in general not a fan of the fantasy genre, then it’s understandble that the FB movies won’t be your cup of tea. I’m not a hardcore fantasy fan, either. But I always love well told stories – especially mysteries. And IMO JKR is not only a writer of well plotted fantasy novels, but a talented mystery writer, too. It’s not surprising at all that she is writing a fairly successful series of mystery novels atm. I read a few of them. They are not brilliant and I miss the heart and soul of the Potter novels, but the central mystery is always well constructed. And each of the HP novels as well as the overarching narrative contains a mystery, too, which has been skillfully laid out in the old fashioned mystery writing style with plenty of clues and red herrings. This aspect was one of the great attractions of the HP novels for me as an adult reader.

        Obviously in the FB franchise JKR continues to employ this technique of weaving mysteries which need to be solved into the narrative. Unfortunately this is far more difficult to do in movies than in novels, especially since JKR isn’t totally in control of the finished product. It’s also very questionable if David Yates is still the right director for this endeavor. While I enjoyed FB 1, I was never a fan of most HP movies.
        As to her tinkering with her universe: Although I share some of JKR’s values, I am also very critical of her constant stream of tweets where JKR, the school marm, forces her personal opinions upon the public. And it’s downright laughable how she tries to make the HP-verse more inclusive and politically relevant in retrospect. While I have no problem at all with the idea of a black actress playing Hermione in some current theater productions (it’s theater after all, and a Play can always be interpreted in various different ways), it was totally ridiculous to claim that the Hermione of the novels could’ve been black all along. The original texts clearly show that this is simply untrue, and JKR should’ve at least taken the trouble and fact check her own texts. And while I tend to believe JKR, that in her mind Dumbledore may always have been gay – she’s well known for her technique of assembling complex back stories for many of her characters, and many details have never made it into the finished texts – it was very uncool to come out with this vital piece of information so much later without supplying at least a few more informations about this imaginary background. And she could’ve at least explained, why this important detail was never mentioned in the novels. The last HP novel should’ve very been the logical place for Dumbledore’s coming-out and not Twitter! Twitter is clearly not the right medium for discussing these complex themes. It’s interesting btw, that JKR has been absent from Twitter for many months now. She seems to have quit cold turkey 😁
        However, I think we should distinguish between all these ill-advised and tiresome tweets and the more complex expansion of her Potter-verse which she is doing in the FB narrative. Right now I cannot sense any political motivation at all for constructing the mystery of Credence’s heritage or giving us more informations about Nagini. To me this seems to come from JKR, the mystery writer, and I’m really interested to learn where she intends to go with this. I will decide if I like it or not, when we have been given the whole picture. But JKR and the makers of the FB franchise clearly have to work on their cinematic delivery of the story. Although I think that FB 2 had some good moments, the narrative was confusing, and it isn’t an interesting stand-alone movie for the more casual audience.

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      4. I think what you’ve said is fair. Let’s hope she’s able to steer the ship back to make the next installments much better. We will see. I certainly hope so for the HP hard core fans

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      5. Rachel, thanks a lot for your answer ☺
        As a fan of good story telling and great fantasy movies I really hope that JKR and WB will be able to come up with a much more compelling third installment of the FB franchise. But they have their work cut out since so many initial mistakes have been made. And some of them can’t be corrected anymore. They are stuck with Johnny Depp’s Grindelwald for better or worse. Also, the franchise should never have been called “Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them”. Since this is also l the title of a JKR book for younger children, this is very misleading and may have initially attracted the wrong audience. “Crimes Of Grindelwald” would’ve been a much better title for the overall franchise since a more grown up audience would’ve been addressed right away. And JKR definitely needs to collaborate with an experienced script writer. I have the suspicion that the opening date for the third installment has been postponed because JKR’s script, which according to her was already finished, needs a serious overhaul. However, I think the current attacks which are aimed at the developing 11narrative of FB itself, are unfair since the overarching story isn’t finished, yet. It’s as if fans of the HP novels would have started to complain before the seventh book had even been published, that Severus Snape is always shown as a bad guy☺.

        The famous twist that Snape has been a flawed hero all along is btw a perfect example for JKR’s modus operandi of long-term planning and plot construction. The clues that Snape was Dumbledore’s man all along have been carefully placed from the first book onwards, and experienced mystery novel readers had a fair chance to figure it out. Many readers have even guessed correctly that young Severus has been in love with Harry’s mother Lily. But JKR added one very clever element: Severus and Lily have been childhood friends and have known each other even before they attended Hogwarts. This important detail made the whole relationship much more believable and psychologically plausible.
        There is an ironclad proof btw that JKR did not just cook up the twist of Snape’s true allegiance late in the game in a fashionable attempt to subvert audience expectations: Alan Rickman revealed in a tv interview he had known all along that deep down Snape wasn’t a bad guy but a flawed hero. JKR had told him this very important detail before the filming for the first movie started.. Of course he wasn’t allowed to speak to anyone about it – not even to the various directors. But JKR wanted to make sure that Rickman wouldn’t portrait Snape as a full blown raving villain but in a more nuanced and ambiguous way. I think he has done just that in a masterful manner and it made the ending of the last movie far more touching. Rickman said, he had now and then acted against the explicit orders of the directors and had told them that he wasn’t allowed to reveal more about his reasons…

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  2. I actually kinda liked it. However, Ilove Harry Potter and it comes no where near the magic of that franchise for me. I do agree that it was very undercooked, JK Rowling rambling on some random ideas thrown into a pot and meant to impress because “HEY LOOK A HARRY POTTER CHARACTER NAME. YOU IMPRESSED??”
    I honestly feel like JK Rowling is just name dropping for the sake of nostalgia and labelling them plot twists urging us to #ProtectTheSecrets.
    I loved the Leta storyline and I actually really liked the Grindleward scenes and I felt like I understood it mostly, unlike your comments. I never felt confused like many.
    However, despite moments I really liked instantly depleted with moments of irritation, I will conclude with the overall feeling of disappointment (especially that iterating ending!) when I was actually quite excited by the trailers :).
    Thanks again Rachel for an enjoyable read!

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      1. I think screenwriting and writing are two VERY different things and I don’t think Jk Rowling is a natural screenwriting – the execution is just terrible, half cooked and unnecessary :(. Really would have liked to love it!
        Would also be interested in how a novel version of the series would have turned out instead

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  3. I really enjoyed this movie, most especially because of the visuals, and I was not as confused as you were. But I do understand that it can get very confusing, putting in a lot within the time frame it is given. I am not heartbroken with this new content, in fact I want to know more. I wish there was a book to explore all of these, and not just a movie or screenplay which are limited by time. Also, off the top of my head, I can think of 3 “secrets” to “protect”. It’s a shame that you didn’t enjoy the movie as I did, but I don’t blame you. You made some valid points in your review.

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    1. Sathepine, I agree with your comment and had a very nice dialogue with Rachel about this subject. I saw the movie twice and was very confused after the first viewing, but enjoyed it much more the second time around. And like you, I want to know more – and therefore I want the next movie to be successful😃
      I also made out a few mysteries or secrets which haven’t been revealed, yet. And I suspect that at the end of the movie nothing is quite what it seems to be. I have a recollection that JKR or someone else from the crew pointed that out.
      Maybe, we should continue this discussion in a couple of years, lol!

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  4. Personally, I’m on the “unpopular” opinion with majority about this movie as I quite enjoyed it. Yes, it wasn’t as good as the first Fantastic Beasts movie and The Crimes of Grindelwald needed to be more structured and more focused, but I was pleasantly happy with the final results, especially since the movie establishes the main conflict of the series.

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