‘Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald’ Review

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What is that thing I feel after watching Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald? Is it excitement at more of Tina and Newt’s adorableness, Jacob and Newt’s bromance or a greater look at the wizarding world I grew up with, or is it bewilderment at the gaping plot holes and the absolutely unnecessary Johnny Deppness of it all?

Mark one for all of the above.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald isn’t a horrible movie, despite the fact that there are plot holes so big they might as well be craters, and this Harry Potter obsessed fan kinda hopes have some sort of explanation, even if that explanation is that yes, Mcgonagall was just supposed to be a nod, and not meant to be taken as that being the real Minerva Mcgonagall teaching at Hogwarts eight years before she was even supposed to be born.

Yes, I can count. I also read Pottermore, WHICH IS SUPPOSED TO BE CANON.

But Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald isn’t a great movie either, and that’s not because of the aforementioned plot hole, or the fact that the movie ends in a mathematical impossibility: Credence being revealed as Aurelius Dumbledore, Albus Dumbledore’s younger brother, even though Dumblore’s father was imprisoned in Azkaban in 1890, his mother died in 1899 and Credence was presumably not born till at least 1901 – though likely later.

No, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is merely an adequate movie for many, many reasons, but mostly because it never manages to tug at your heartstrings the way the first installment does.

And that’s without even going into the frankly problematic portrayal of Leta Lestrange – not to mention her background. Why did Leta need to sacrifice herself in the end, much less sacrifice herself in that way and with that ambiguous I love you directed at …eh …Newt? Theseus? And why did she need the backstory she was given?

Oh, yes, she didn’t.

But, even though my mind recognizes this and the fact that Nagini – touted as a big character – was barely there as anything other than a nod to what we presume will happen to her (also extremely problematic), are some of the movie’s biggest flaws, emotionally, my biggest problem was in connecting to characters I already cared for.

Well, that and Depp, but we’ll get to that in a second.

Newt, Tina and Jacob are back, and they’re as delightful as ever. Theseus turns out to be nothing like the stereotype I expected of him, and Law, though lacking a certain Dumbledore flair I expected, still adds something to the portrayal of a character we have loved for so long, and that seems to be, at this point in his life, still tortured by the past in a way we never saw him be during the Harry Potter years.

And yet, the movie – despite over two hours of running time – never truly manages to convince you of Credence’s journey, much less Queenie’s, and the end result is a great sense of disappointment in people you knew, not because they made the wrong decisions, that’s the way of movies and the way of life, but because you just can’t fathom why they made the decisions they did.

Because, yes, we understand the concept. We know the parallels to the rise of Nazism this movie is trying to depict with Grindelwald. But the film relies too much on viewers filling in the blanks and imagining why people did so and so, and the movie just can’t sustain itself under the weight of different interpretations.

Not to mention the fact that it almost feels like nothing that happened in the first movie was even important? Newt and Tina are back on square one, or worse, because lack of communication, Tina and Queenie aren’t speaking, for reasons that we are never privy to, Queenie thinks enchanting Jacob so he’ll marry her is a good idea, and oh, yes Leta and Theseus are going to get married and we don’t even get to hear how they met!

And I haven’t even gotten to the Depp of it all.

The problems with Johnny Depp are well documented, and I’m not going to go into my personal issues with him on here, not again. I admit that, considering JK Rowling, WB, and everyone associated with this film decided Depp was the hill they were going to die on, even after his abuse allegations were made public, I thought: well, the guy must give an Oscar-worthy performance in the movie, not that if he had it would have excused their decision one bit.

But the thing is, he doesn’t. He’s just …adequate. There’s nothing of the flair that, once upon a time, he brought to the character of Jack Sparrow, nothing that separates him from what another performer would have done after one bad bleach job. He is Grindelwad, but he doesn’t embody Grindelwald in the same way Eddie Redmayne embodies Newt, for example, and in the end, we’re left feeling way more for a niffler than we ever feel for Grindelwald.

So, in conclusion, the POC characters were badly handled, some of the characters we already liked made choices we couldn’t understand, and Grindelwald was as bland as tofu – in fact, the only reason we’re ever actually concerned is because, intellectually, we know he’s a great wizard, not because we are truly shown this –which results in a movie that could have been so much more, and in the end, only manages to be interesting because Newt is still a compelling hero, for many of the reasons characters like him don’t get to be heroes in the first place.

Like Dumbledore remarks, Newt isn’t interested in fame, or in power. He simply wants to do the right thing, and treat not just people, but all creatures that inhabit the world with kindness.

And in the absence of much more to celebrate in this movie, I find that Newt – and Tina, awkward, determined, unequivocally herself Tina, even if for some reason she isn’t allowed much of an actual relationship with Queenie, to be the two things that this movie still does well. The question, of course, is, will that and the return to a world that has already given us so much be enough for you?

We all make our decisions in that regard, but for me, as someone who lined up at midnight for the last three Harry Potter movies, the answer isn’t as clear cut as I would have liked it to be.

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

Note to our readers: Johnny Deep has been accused by ex-wife Amber Heard, Depp’s former representatives and a former friend of the couple of verbal and physical abuse against Heard.


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