Warning: There are minor spoilers ahead for “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.”
“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” is in theatres Friday and the reviews haven’t been stellar. It’s been referred to as everything from “the new worst Harry Potter movie” to an “unmagical slog.” One went as far as to call it a “franchise-killing disaster.“
I think they’re being a bit hyperbolic.
There are three more movies planned for this franchise. The J.K. Rowling train isn’t stopping for anyone. Is this a perfect movie? No way. But that’s not going to prevent “Crimes of Grindelwald” (“CoG”) from making plenty of money at the box office. I’ve watched a lot of terrible movies: “After Earth,” “Jupiter Ascending,” and “Passengers.” “CoG” is nowhere on that level. This movie is dark and visually gorgeous, despite trying to cram too much into a two-hour movie. (Isn’t that most of the “Potter” films?)
The sequel to the 2016 “Harry Potter” prequel follows exactly where the last one left off. Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) is getting transferred to another prison, but naturally things go awry, he gets loose, and he’s off to gather a group of followers to put in place an agenda to ensure wizards rule the world.
INSIDER previewed the movie early with fans and critics alike and while the magical feel of the wizarding world is certainly still there with great performances, this is definitely a movie that is going to divide the fandom and stir up a lot of conversation.
Why to see it: The full cast is back and it’s written by J.K. Rowling herself. Oh, and Jude Law is a hot Dumbledore.
Like the first film, director David Yates is back along with Eddie Redmayne as the magizoologist, one who studies magical creatures, Newt Scamander, Katherine Waterston as his love interest Tina Goldstein, and “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling returned to write the screenplay.
Also, forget the normal wizard robes we’re used to seeing at Hogwarts. You may be swooning over Jude Law’s vest-wearing young Dumbledore.
What’s hot: the adventure back to the Wizarding world, Jude Law, Newt’s adorable awkwardness, and Johnny Depp as a sadistically vile villain.
The movie wastes little time letting you know that Grindelwald is bad news in a fantastic sequence where he escapes from the Ministry of Magic. (I don’t consider this a spoiler. We knew he had to get out in order to wreck more havoc. There are three more movies in this franchise.)
And he’s not just bad. He may make Voldemort look soft. Grindelwald is the sort of guy who tosses animals out of flying carriages to their death and has muggle kids killed. It’s all in the name of making sure pure-blood wizards rule the world and in order to do that he needs Credence, the powerful Obscurial from the first film, for reasons that are sort of unclear for most of the film until the very end.
Whatever you think about Depp outside of the film, the guy can play a creepy villain and one you definitely want to root against.
The addition of Jude Law as a young Dumbledore, though he’s not seen nearly enough, is a perfect foil to Grindelwald’s villain. He’s mischievous, playful, and a bit conniving – getting his old student Newt (Redmayne) to do his dirty work for him here. We expect to see him more front and center with Newt perhaps taking more of a backseat in the future.
The scope of the wizarding world is expanded even more to Paris and London and every big action sequence is a visual feast if you focus on that and not the film’s many subplots. (More in a second on that.) One moment that stands out in particular is when large black ribbons drape across the skies. They’re revealed to be followers of Grindelwald.
If you came to this expecting a bunch of fantastic beasts, they’re there, too. Newt gets his time to shine being equally animal-savvy and awkward when it comes to women as he was in the first film. Jacob (Dan Fogler) and the return of Newt’s coin-loving Niffler bring a few needed laughs among the gloom of Grindelwald. Some Niffler babies introduced give the Baby Porgs introduced in “The Last Jedi” a run for their money.
What’s not: Some of the pacing feels off, there are too many unnecessary subplots, and there’s at least one plot hole that doesn’t need to exist.
The film’s biggest crime may be stuffing itself with too many subplots, some of which are just time consuming, and, at the end of the day, aren’t needed.
Case in point is a tedious storyline with Tina who spends the majority of the movie believing Newt is engaged to someone else because of a magazine typo. Doesn’t the wizarding world have a way to fact-check and correct that stat?
The insertion of an iconic “Harry Potter” character teased in trailers seems wasted and inserted as nothing more than fanfare and a giant Easter egg. And then the film makes you question a lot of things. Queenie makes a strange decision that’s never fully fleshed out in the movie and Grindelwald has a female sidekick who’s never properly introduced. It feels like a lot of setup for movie three. There’s also a love triangle of sorts between Newt, his brother, and Zoe Kravitz’s character for whatever reason and that’s not explored or explained in full.
A main frustration is that it feels as if Rowling is rewriting some of her world’s history as she goes. Several new creatures which appear in “CoG” are brand new and do not exist in the text of the encyclopedia from which the prequel franchise is inspired. Are they just going to print new books after the film is released? How does that work?
Perhaps, this is a pitfall of allowing Rowling to write these scripts. It feels like some bits and pieces are missing from the movie, as if she’s writing a longer, extended series of books on the side. If that’s the case, great! They will help fill in the gaps. But if not, Rowling may want to truncate some of the many subplots in the film.
Otherwise, there are at least two big moments that may upset viewers. The first involves Dumbledore and Grindelwald. Fans hoping to learn more of Dumbledore and Grindelwald’s past relationship may be frustrated it’s glazed over. Rowling has confirmed Dumbledore is gay, but it remains to be made overtly clear on screen.
Instead, the story is left open for it to be explored more in a subsequent film. But it’s unclear whether any sort of romantic relationship between them will ever be broached. It seems odd for a film that progressively pushes a message supporting relationships between those with magic and those without.
A big reveal at the film’s very end will certainly divide fans.
Frankly, I liked the reveal and thought it made sense, but I know it’s going to be a hot-button topic. Why? The road to getting to the reveal is a bit convoluted. I also heard a lot of fan chatter walking out of the theatre and not all of it was positive. Some viewers said they simply hated the movie.
Overall: If you’re any sort of “Harry Potter” fan, you’re probably going to see this movie.
There are a lot of mixed reviews going around for this movie and I think a lot of it is seeped in backlash over casting for multiple characters, which is spilling into critical reviews. If you’re just basing your review off of the movie as a whole, it’s not a terrible film and it’s definitely not a boring one. There are a few laughs, gorgeous creatures to look at, and if you’ve been looking for something darker in the wizarding world, this is it.
Is it going to ruffle some feathers? You bet. But I think when it’s seen in the larger scope of the franchise with its sequels that it may be better received. If you’ve been a “Harry Potter” fan since the start, you don’t spend two decades of your life with these characters and abandon them. I think.
“The Crimes of Grindelwald” is in theatres Friday. You can watch a trailer below.
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