J.K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald made its official premiere yesterday and is on track to collect $75 million through its opening weekend, despite harsh reviews.
Crimes of Grindelwald is the second film in the Fantastic Beasts series and is an extension of the Wizarding World initially created for the Harry Potter franchise.
It would be unfair to call the movie terrible because it had splashes of Rowling’s brilliance, but it’s impossible to defend its shortcomings.
The main issue with the film is that it lacks the streamlined warmth and inner story that each of the Harry Potter movies strived in. Even the first Fantastic Beasts movie had a beginning, comprehensible middle, and satisfying end.
The film begins with Grindelwald’s (Johnny Depp) escape from a U.S. wizarding prison. As the dark wizard slithered from one spell to the next and took on ten Aurors by himself in a spectacular mid-air fight I tucked further into my reclining theatre chair and prepared for another stellar story.
That story was there, somewhere, but it stuffed below an onslaught of scenes that seemed chaotic and diluted by poor transitions. It jumped from scene to scene with little explanation as to how we got there and why. All of the moving parts are eventually brought together, but done so by a character that plays no role other than that.
The unnecessary addition of new characters was another gripe I had with the film; some famous names were there for no reason at all. Most of the trailers show off Nicolas Flamel, the renowned creator of the Philosopher’s stone. His role in the movie turned out to be laughable. A couple of returning characters, such as fan favorite no-Maj Jacob Kowalski, suffer the same fate.
This lack of organization made it hard to feel connected to any of the characters, especially those that were newly introduced. Of course, seeing a young Dumbledore and McGonagall at Hogwarts was nostalgic and made the Harry Potter fan in me giddy regardless.
In its defense, Rowling not only wrote up the story and its characters but also played a large part in the film’s production. This could be a reason why its structure resembled that of a book; there was a smooth beginning that set up what the story was going to be about, but the middle chapters were split between multiple characters, each getting a chapter or two in a rotation until the conclusion.
For hardcore fans, The Crimes of Grindelwald is perfect. It’ll stuff you with details, waste little time explaining what’s going on, and eventually give you the answers you’ve been waiting for, all while setting up the next few movies. That’s essentially what this film was; a giant build up that answered a few necessary questions to get the ball rolling.
However, there’s no getting around the fact that it’s a very confusing, convoluted mess of a movie that would probably be better received if it had a book to back it up. That’s how the last couple of Harry Potter movies got away with jumping around in the same fashion, after all. No one cared about transitions at that point because everyone had memorized each detail from Rowling’s pages.
The beasts were fantastic, Eddie Redmayne was spectacular as Newt Scamander once again, Depp turned out to be the Grindelwald we never knew we needed and the last minute of the movie gave us an answer that we’ve been waiting three years for. Who is Credence the Obscurus?
Fantastic Beasts 3 will be epic and while this film was a bit tough to swallow, it wasn’t so bad that it curbed my excitement for what Rowling will make happen next.