Two years ago, I wrote about how excited I was to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. It was our first live-action foray back into the wizarding world and I ate up every moment of it. And to this day I still find the film to be completely charming. I fell in love with these newly introduced characters and wanted to see them succeed – even if it took the slated 5 films to see them do so. I was sold. I was smitten. I wanted more from them. Now we’re here for the second installment in the series – The Crimes of Grindelwald.
The trailers have all looked promising. There’s more beasts they plan on introducing (something I had been worried about after hearing the shifting focus to Grindelwald). There’s more characters to love (or hate). Stories, like the snake Nagini, will be told for the first time. And we’ll actually be seeing the rise of Grindelwald as he recruits more witches and wizards for his plot to dominate Muggles/No-Majs. All interesting plot points that have kept me excited.
Now, I’m typically not one for reading reviews before a film I’m anticipating. I’d like to go in as hyped up as I can, which either benefits me or hurts me. But for this film, I couldn’t to resist. Is the second film going to dazzle me just as much as the first film did? Turns out a lot of critics aren’t very fond of it. I grew worried. This is one of my biggest fandoms, after all. Surely the Wizarding World wouldn’t be as bad as people were making it out to be. To quote many a fan, will the franchise “ruined my childhood”?
It turns out – no, no the franchise hasn’t ruined my childhood. But it does leave me questioning whether or not JK Rowling should return to play in her own sandbox. That is to say I’m not sure we should be exploring these characters – namely Dumbledore and Grindelwald. What made the first film so great was the focus on Newt, his Beasts, and his friends helping him along the way. It was fun, it was an adventure. Now with The Crimes of Grindelwald, the fun and adventure are gone. Instead we’re thrown into a political war with Grindelwald and the wizarding community at large. That’s not to say there aren’t fun or funny moments in the film, but mostly the plot focuses on the big doom and gloom of just what Grindelwald is trying to achieve – and who that affects. The film starts with a thrilling action sequence only to be followed 90 minutes of dullness. They start by separating characters, bringing them together, only to separate them again. And an event-heavy conclusion which brings a grimace rather than a gasp.
I won’t go into spoilers, of course, because that isn’t what this review is. But the reason why I don’t think we should be delving into characters like Dumbledore and Grindelwald is due to canon and continuity. Characters are introduced who shouldn’t even be alive yet – per JK Rowling’s continuity. A new character is introduced, one that has never, ever been mentioned and would be in canon already if they actually existed. But it’s impossible for them to exist. These characters are tied to Dumbledore and Grindelwald, woven into their stories as though they’re supposed to be there. As a fan, I’m frustrated with this film. It spits in the face of the continuity I’ve grown up with. Things about the franchise I have known have now been called into question. Canon aside, it was also frustrating to watch characters be built up and thrown aside. Why? Why do this? Why would I get a lot of history on this character only for them to be tossed away? I want to trust Rowling, I genuinely do, but as the second movie in a five movie franchise, I’m not so confident.
At least a couple of the characters are great. Newt is still his awkward, animal loving self. Jacob remains a fun character, even though this film gives him a lot more drama to deal with. But Tina isn’t an equal to Newt as she was in the first film. Instead she becomes Newt’s love interest that he chases around. Queenie also gets a lot more to do, but what she’s given leaves me confused rather then cheering for her. To be fair, I want to see this film again. I don’t think I got everything I needed to out of it – I’m left with many more questions rather than answers. A few questions could be answered with a rewatch. The rest? I’m not so sure. These things I have issues with could be explained away in another film or a tweet by Rowling but if the film stands alone, it’s a bit of a confusing mess.
You’ll have to watch it this weekend and let us know what you think. The film was directed by David Yates and written by JK Rowling. It stars Eddie Redmanye, Katherine Waterston, Jude Law, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Zoë Kravitz, Callum Turner, Claudia Kim, Johnny Depp, and Carmen Ejogo. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is out in theaters now.
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