Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindlewald continues the story of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them, chronicling Gellert Grindlewald’s rise to power in the first half of the 20th century with Newt Scamander as the main protagonist.
Overall, I only kinda liked this movie. There were some scenes that really pulled me in and that had some really well-done tension and character realizations but, generally speaking, it was just okay.
I want to note first off that, while I did not have this problem, two people that I know that are not huge HP fans but have enjoyed it in the past, mentioned to me that they had a lot of trouble following along with the story in the first half of the movie.
There are some huge flaws in storytelling if you have people that saw the first one but still have difficulty keeping up with the events in the second.
Other than that, I will start with the things that I liked.
Several months ago there was a ton of uproar when David Yates mentioned in an interview that The Crimes of Grindlewald would not outright state that Dumbledore is gay. While this remained true, and admittedly it would have been nice to have it stated, the nods to the relationship between Dumbledore and Grindlewald were sprinkled throughout the movie and I honestly think that even if someone did not know about their relationship beforehand, they could have gotten it through the hints. So…yay!
Secondly, I actually liked the development in Jacob and Queenie’s story. It is really difficult to go anywhere into this without spoilers but Queenie’s character takes a dark turn. While I have read some other articles that are upset about this, I feel like the decisions that Queenie makes at the end of the movie are consistent with other decisions made in the beginning. It is messed up but, you know me, I love characters that don’t make the right decisions.
The rest of this review can be summed up thusly: oh, the endless ret-conning.
If it were just one or two things, regardless of how major, I honestly could deal with it. Case in point is Serenity, the movie that tied up the Firefly TV series. Serenity played a little fast and loose at the beginning with how River escaped from the Alliance but it was the only case of ret-conning the original story and, more importantly, it was done for purpose of tightening up the storytelling of the rest of the movie. In The Crimes of Grindlewald, it seemed like everything that happened screwed with canon HP in some way.
First off, Nagini. When it was first revealed that Nagini was going to be in this series, again there was an uproar. For my part, my biggest fear was that the writers were going to immediately throw her in with Grindlewald without any character development. The good news? She was not immediately thrown in with the bad guys. There is some room for character development…in the future. Because the bad news? She was really extraneous to this story. She served no purpose other than to follow Credence Barebone around. None. I remain hopeful that future films will explore her a lot more and do the character justice. However, The Crimes of Grindlewald was not her film at all and I honestly wish she hadn’t been there.
Also, Professor McGonagall. It is generally accepted that Minerva McGonagall was not born until 1935 and did not start teaching at Hogwarts until the 1950s. Yet here she is in 1927 already teaching. Again, I am okay with a little ret-conning if the purpose of it is to tell a good story. But McGonagall literally served no purpose in this movie, even less than Nagini. She was there purely as a “Hey fans, look! It’s McGonagall! Please love this movie!” kind of stunt.
And then the reveal in the final scene. All I have to say is that this better be a red herring.
More than anything going into these movies, I just wanted a good story. Fantastic Beasts so far has only been able to do that some of the time. The rest of the time, the movie seems filled with fluff and references to Harry Potter just for the sake of making the audience fawn over previously known characters. The movie relies too hard on existing love of the Harry Potter universe rather than creating a new and compelling story.