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)
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?
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…
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.