Arts movie review

‘You never met a monster you couldn’t love’

Rowling’s writing falls short with plot holes and discontinuities galore

8839 crimes of grindelwald
Nagini (Claudia Kim) helps Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller) search for his mother.
Courtesy of Jaap Buitendijk

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
Directed by David Yates
Screenplay by J.K. Rowling
Starring Eddie Redmayne, Zoë Kravitz, Jude Law, Johnny Depp, Ezra Miller
Rated PG-13, Now Playing

Disclaimer: This review contains a few spoilers with regards to Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald picks up a few months after Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, with Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and company chasing after Grindelwald’s (Johnny Depp) and Credence’s (Ezra Miller) trails. The overall tone of this movie is much darker than the first, though there are still plenty of scenes with humor and charm that give audiences a breather from worrying about the impending doom by Grindelwald. Since its release, the film has received a lot of flak, and with good reason.

To start, I’m disappointed that, aside from the major plot twists, the trailers for Grindelwald basically reveal the story of the film. Dumbledore sends Newt to find Grindelwald for him because he “can’t move against him.” Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) is now an Auror and is also working to track down Grindelwald. Eventually, Grindelwald gathers enough support for his cause to call a rally while plotting to recruit Credence and almost killing Newt. There are flashbacks to Newt’s years as a student in Hogwarts to provide appropriate backstory. For some reason, Nagini (Claudia Kim) is a human rather than solely being Voldemort’s loyal pet snake. The film also hints at the canon of Dumbledore and Grindelwald’s relationship via the trailer, spoiling the Mirror of Erised scene (though to what extent is still questionable). Finally, alchemist Nicolas Flamel (Brontis Jodorowsky) is also in the movie for some reason.

Despite the spoiler-prone nature of the trailers, the movie itself still has plenty to unpack and criticize. For one, there are too many discontinuities, plot holes, and confusions brought up from the perspective of a Harry Potter fan. McGonagall (Fiona Glascott) is in the movie despite the fact that she’s not supposed to be born until 1935. This movie takes place in 1927. Dumbledore is a Defence Against the Dark Arts professor despite the preconception that he was always the Transfigurations professor prior to becoming headmaster. Jacob (Dan Fogler) somehow remembers everything despite being very clearly obliviated at the end of the previous movie. And speaking of Jacob’s memories returning, Queenie’s (Alison Sudol) quest for love seems uncharacteristic from her performance in the first film. Overall, when one examines the movie in terms of the established timelines, there are definitely details that feel forced or misplaced.

However, despite all the downfalls of the writing and story, the movie is an enjoyable experience. If you are not an avid fan of Harry Potter and go merely to be entertained, you will be entertained. The realism of the CGI is amazing. All the creatures that help Newt never look out of place. Personally, one of my favorite beast scenes features Newt’s baby nifflers causing mischief in his home.

Worldbuilding is definitely something J.K. Rowling has always been good at, and it is something that helps this movie a great deal. In the first Fantastic Beasts movie, audiences are only allowed a small glimpse into the world at large via its setting in New York. No-Majs (aka Muggles) have a general dislike of wizards and witches, if they even believe in their existence. Conversely, practitioners of magic are not allowed to engage in relationships with No-Majs. The pursuit of learning more about Newt Scamander’s creatures is a major plot-driving point, helping audiences develop a love for a plethora of magical creatures akin to Hagrid’s. Then there’s Grindelwald, who only feels like a background worry until his reveal at the very end of the first movie.

With The Crimes of Grindelwald, we are taken back and forth between Hogwarts and Paris, France. The politics of the current wizarding world are more prominently displayed: the Ministry of Magic strictly prohibits wizards and Muggles from forming relationships; Grindelwald’s increasing following is telling of his increasing power and influence in the magical world; Dumbledore, as usual, is implicated as a suspicious figure in the major conflicts at hand; Credence, as a powerful obscurial, is a dangerous wild card; and there is another possible prophecy provided by The Predictions of Tycho Dodonus.

As a viewer, you gain a deeper understanding of the greater stakes and motivations of the times. The grandeur of Grindelwald’s scheme and the importance of Credence are clearer, but the confusion caused by plot holes and unnecessary inclusion of certain characters leave much to be desired. The Crimes of Grindelwald simply does not fit smoothly into the canon of the Harry Potter universe. Even worse, the movie feels like a two-hour long spectacle of exposition, and you just wish the next three movies could come out already so you know how this whole messy arc ends.