“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindewald:” not fantastic, but not bad

“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” movie poster. Photo Credit:

“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” movie poster. Photo Credit: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4123430/

Alexis Rosko, Contributing Writer

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On Nov. 6 the newest addition to J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World hit theatres internationally. “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” was good, but it didn’t quite live up to my expectations.

This film continues the story of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), but shifts the focus from him and his beasts to familial backstories, Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) and the first wizarding war.

In “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” a group of pure-blood wizards have joined Grindelwald in an effort to rule over non-magical beings. Young Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) is one of the only wizard’s powerful enough to stop him, but for an unknown reason can’t, so he enlists Newt to help. This takes Newt to Paris, where the majority of the movie takes place.

One of the best things about the movie has to be the acting. Dan Fogler as non-magical baker Jacob Kowalski provides comedic relief when it is most needed, Katherine Waterston as formerly disgraced witch turned auror, Porpentina Goldstein, showcases the pride and stubborn aspects of her character, and Eddie Redmayne keeps the quirky, awkward and relatable qualities of Newt alive, as he carries around his case of lovable beasts. As for Queenie, a strong, confident, mind-reading witch, Alison Sudol does a fantastic job of showing the unexpected, more emotional side of her character. And, even with the initial controversy surrounding Johnny Depp, one simply cannot deny that he is a good actor. His character is utterly unique and the perfect villain for this series. Depp brought Grindelwald to life and really stole the show in his scenes.

With the addition of many new characters, most of them were not given much to work with, but their scenes were always well executed. Zoë Kravitz as Leta Lestrange portrays underlying emotions and conflicting feelings of her character very well, and Claudia Kim as Nagini, a maledictus who carries a blood curse that eventually will permanently turn her into a snake, achieved the initial shock factor that comes with seeing a well-known Harry Potter character, but was a severely underdeveloped character that I would like to see some backstory on. While Eddie Redmayne will always be my first thought when I think of Newt Scamander, Joshua Shea as young Newt really captures the quirky, awkward aspects of the character that fans fell in love with. But, of all the additions to the cast, the best choice has to be casting Jude Law as young Albus Dumbledore. Many fans left the theatre enraptured by his looks, but what was most notable was how he was able to capture all the nuances of Dumbledore as he exists in the original Harry Potter books.

Director David Yates, who also directed the final four Harry Potter films, was brought back for the Fantastic Beasts series. The cinematography of this film was dark and intense, which was very reminiscent of the later Potter films. While it was good to drawback to the feeling of the original Wizarding World series, the darkness was almost overused. There were barely any light moments, and that lack of shift drew away from the magic of the world. Additionally, the visual effects in this movie flowed much more smoothly than in the first Fantastic Beasts film. The magic flowed easily from the wand and the beasts looked much more real. They flowed better with the backgrounds and their movements were very fluid.

However, the film was far from perfect. Receiving a 39 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, the critics were clearly not thrilled, and they had their reasons. Some of the directorial choices seemed to create a disconnect with viewers. Toward the beginning of the film, Newt, Leta and Theseus are in the London Ministry of Magic, and some of the shots were supposed to be point of view shots from Newt’s perspective. This made it difficult to remain focused on what was being said, as the movement was excessive and unnecessary. Later in the movie, there were also shaky handheld shots of Leta in Hogwarts. While this often is used to immerse viewers into the world, the attempts missed their mark.

The movie had a larger focus on action and spectacle than the first film, and it was extremely fast paced. It felt like many character moments had been cut, as there was a severe lack of them, and many character arcs had very little development and didn’t make much sense. The film tried to flip the views of too many characters, to the point where I was left confused and unable to process the last 30 minutes the first time I saw it. The pacing also left no room for the whimsy that was always present in the Harry Potter films, as well as the first “Fantastic Beasts.”

Also, there were many discontinuities both within the movie and with what had previously been established about the Wizarding World. Grindelwald is clearly a very important character in the film, given he is in the title, but throughout the movie, the pronunciation of his name was not kept consistent. Some of the characters would pronounce it as it is spelled with a “w” sound (Grindelwald), but others would pronounce it with a “v” sound (Grindelvald). After seeing the movie twice, and watching many interviews of the cast, I am still not sure of the proper way to pronounce a major characters name. The other discontinuities wouldn’t be noticed by casual viewers, but really irked longtime Harry Potter fans. At one point there is a mention of an unbreakable vow, that completely upends the method of making an unbreakable vow seen in “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”. The presence of Minerva McGonagall seemed to bother people the most because it has previously been established that this beloved teacher was not born until 1935, yet she is seen as a Hogwarts teacher in this film, which takes place in 1927.

“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” is filled with lovable characters and an interesting plot line, but was more useful in setting up for the third film in the series. It provides a lot of build-up, with not many answers. While there is still hope for the rest of the series, this film alone doesn’t exactly hit its mark.

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