Film Review – Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018)
I am … a Potter head. I have read all the books, each one at least twice. When I was in London 6 years ago, I went to the Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studio, drank butterbeer, invested in the merchandise and took a must-have photo of any Potter fan — a picture of myself on a broomstick in Hogwarts robes. My brothers and I developed a tradition of watching every Harry Potter related movie together in the cinema, and watching them again when they arrive on cable, so much so I can probably cite bits of dialogue. Hence, it is no surprise that review or not, I was going to be watching this movie the week of its release.
As a fan of the world J.K Rowling has built, it is not a fun thing for me to say that this movie missed the mark. It feels lazily put together, with certain revelations not making sense, really coming across as a cash-grab rather than a well-delivered sequel. I enjoyed the first movie in the series, and it is sad that this second one ruins the momentum that its predecessor made.
The following review will be spoiler free.
Directed By: David Yates
Written By: J.K Rowling
After news of Grindelwald’s (Johnny Depp) escape, Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) enlists the help of his former student Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) to find Credence (Ezra Miller), who managed to survive his ordeal of being an Obscurial — a young witch or wizard who develops a dark parasitic magical force as a result of their magic being suppressed. Dumbledore believes Credence is crucial to Grindelwald’s plans, making him a target of the Ministry of Magic, and desires Scamander to do all he can to protect him.
Even though the story of Harry Potter is over, the world is still a thriving one, in part because of the tidbits of information that J.K Rowling tweets out to satiate the ever-hungry fans. This was the case for the revelation that Albus Dumbledore is gay, with the source of his affection being Grindelwald, the infamous wizard who came before Voldemort, with pretty much the same Hitleristic agenda of desiring pure-blood wizards and witches to rule against the non-magical folk. This came as a shock to some of us, since Dumbledore was the one to take him down in 1945, putting an end to his tyrannic rise. We knew it was a hard thing for Dumbledore as they were close childhood friends, but Rowling’s revelation now glossed the events with a different hue, making it a different situation of heartbreak since Dumbledore was in love with him.
Hence, with the news that Jude Law, who is a Grecian God of a sexy man, had been cast as a young Dumbledore, fans were wondering if we were going to get more insight into this aspect of Dumbledore’s sexuality. Then it became known to us that he was not going to be openly gay in the movies. This was not surprising to me, as an openly gay depiction of Dumbledore might affect the rating of the movie, and though the Fantastic Beasts movies involves a more adult world than Harry Potter, a lot of the movie’s audiences are still young children. The fans were outraged about this news from Yates, and took to online platforms to express their displeasure. Some believed that Rowling only revealed the information about Dumbledore in an attempt to add diversity to her work.
Rowling responded to the abuse online by stating that the interview was not hers, but the director’s, and this is only the second movie in a five-part series, so who is to say where it goes from there. As for me, I got a shock that I would need to folk out money for 3 more movies.
The Casting of Johnny Depp
When Grindelwald was revealed to be Johnny Depp in the previous movie, there was a lot of contention online about this choice, since Depp was going through a messy divorce with former wife Amber Heard, and the internet was rife with rumors about him being abusive to her in their relationship. Stylistically, he seemed like a strange fit as well, with his over-acting and over-eccentric portrayal of recent roles he has taken on — so much so he feels cartoon-ish at times. I was willing to see how it would play out, since I could never have pictured Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort, yet he did a commendable job.
Depp is competent, but is still unable to drop his Jack Sparrow ways, glimpses of it still making its way into his characterization of Grindelwald. To be fair to Depp, the script doesn’t give him much to work with either, where he is constantly said to be persuasive but never really showing any of this so-called persuasion that convinces so many wizards and witches to join his cause. Where Depp excels is the moments where Grindelwald wields his magic. Depp makes Grindelwald’s spellwork look effortless, and at times, quite ‘bad-ass’.
Jude Law as Albus Dumbledore
As you can probably tell, I love Jude Law. He is a beautiful man and has managed to rise above being defined just by his beauty. The man can act as well as leave me swooning with his smile. So, his casting was interesting, seeing as how most of us are used to a particular image of Dumbledore and the choice of Law subverts that. With such hype surrounding the inclusion of this young version of Dumbledore, it is sad to say that he was barely in the movie. When he is there, he is getting others to make moves against Grindelwald, not entering the field himself. It is later on in the movie that we discover why, and it is more than just Dumbledore’s love for Grindelwald.
There is really nothing more for me to add to this section, just wanted to say more Jude Law is needed, and we will probably get this in the subsequent movies.
Disappointing Female Characters
I have always admired Rowling’s treatment of her female characters, after all, she gave us Hermione Granger, who is intelligent, brave and intensely loyal. Hermione is not the only one who demonstrates such attributes in the series. We got characters like Molly Weasley, Nymphadora Tonks, Ginny Weasley, Luna Lovegood … the list goes on. Even the characters who are more ambivalent in their characterization, like Dolores Umbridge and Narcissa Malfoy, are committed in their own ways to what they feel is important. This is not the case in this movie.
For this film, we have three main female characters, two of whom was introduced to us in the previous movie — Tina and Queenie Goldstein. I was on the fence about Tina ever since the first movie. I liked that she is an Auror, and her care for Credence obviously shows her empathetic side, but besides this she comes across as rather flat and unlikable. She always seems to be getting herself into situations, needing Scamander to come bail her out or help her. She is also relegated to the role of his love interest, apparently possessing the eyes of a salamander, which is significant I guess given Scamander’s affinity and love for strange creatures and animals.
Her sister Queenie is the one who gets the real disservice in this movie. She was such an empowered character in the first movie, recognizing that men consistently underestimate women and using that to her advantage. She is also sweet and lovely, kind to Dan Fogler’s Jacob despite his non-magical status, with the two falling in love with each other towards the end of the first movie. All that characterization is lost in this one, with Queenie so desperate to get married and have “what everybody else has” that she is willing to steamroll over Jacob’s opinions and sever important relationships. This is not the woman we saw in the first movie, and I am hoping that the path she is currently on is not set in stone.
Kravtiz’s Leta Lestrange is more nuanced, possessing a complex family history, as well as a complicated relationship with the Scamander brothers. There was obviously some kind of relationship with Newt when they were at Hogwarts together, but in this movie she is engaged to Theseus, Newt’s brother. That intrigued me. However, we never get a firm handle of who she is, and once again I feel a woman is just there to tell a man’s story.
The special effects is definitely the stand-out factor for me. The entire opening sequence to the movie was breathtaking, with me and my brother turning to each other to say “wow” at the same time. There is however, no action. Like the first movie, they are once again finding Credence, who is on his own search to find out who he is. I hope that this revelation is not accurate, because it would truly spoil the carefully curated world that Rowling has maintained for so long; there would be too many plot holes emerging as a result.
Claudia Kim’s Nagini was also something that I was looking forward to seeing, especially because I had no idea that Voldemort’s snake was not originally a snake but a woman — a maledictus specifically, which means that she is a carrier of a blood curse that will eventually doom her to the life of a beast. She doesn’t have much of a presence in the movie, mainly existing as Credence’s crutch. I understand that The Crimes of Grindelwald is the second film in a five-part series, and this is not the end of the narrative, but it still needs to be able to exist as a standalone movie. It is called The Crimes of Grindelwald but Grindelwald is barely in it, Scamander and gang feel unnecessary, and as much as I love Ezra Miller, his characterization of Credence needs to do more.
I hope that the next movie does better and redeems this mess, because Rowling is smarter than this — but I guess even best-selling authors can drop the ball sometimes.
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