The Harry Potter franchise is one of the most important franchises in both books and movies. For both the books and the movies (even the two-part eighth film) were able to balance both story and spectacle in order to keep readers and viewers entertained throughout. The Fantastic Beasts spinoff franchise honestly has a more difficult journey. It had to match the wonder and love that the original series had, and yet put its own twist on things. Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them struggled with an identity crisis of both plot and tone. While Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is better by far, that doesn’t mean it’s Harry Potter level.
Some of you may think it’s wrong to compare the two franchises. But much like The Hobbit trilogy to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, it’s impossible not to. Literally. Especially when one (the prequels in both cases) continue to reference the “latter” series when they can because they know the “fans” will “like” it.
The problem I personally had with Fantastic Beasts came from basically everything not focused on Newt Scamander. Everything he did was brilliant. From his personality, to the beasts he caught, and how he interacted with Tina and Queenie. The Obscuris storyline, the American Ministry part, and the Muggle subplot were so full of holes and darkness that it didn’t feel anything like a Harry Potter film, not even the latter ones.
Thankfully, Fantastic Beasts The Crimes of Grindelwald does bring things more to a focus. As Grindelwald himself is starting his Wizard uprising, and characters we know and don’t are having to “choose a side”, all the while trying to prevent a massive war.
To their credit, Fantastic Beasts The Crimes of Grindelwald actually does a good job of bringing wizards both old and new into the mix. Such as Theseus Scamander, Newt’s brother, and one who is very loyal to the Ministry…and not exactly his brother. Their scenes are very much highlights in that they take the “two different kinds of brothers” motif and put a real wizarding twist on it. One of my favorite lines from the film is when Tina takes down Theseus and Newt (full smile on his face) says, “That might be the best moment of my life”. That’s good stuff.
Other new characters include the first true appearance of Lita Lestrange, a character who has deep ties to both the Scamanders and the Harry Potter universe at large if you know the lore. Then there’s Nagini, who also has a big role to play in the future.
But true, the biggest and truest “new” character is Grindelwald himself. He had (officially) one line in the first film. Here though, Johnny Depp delivers a stirring performance that I hope gets even more layers as the now five-film franchise goes on. The important thing that Fantastic Beasts The Crimes of Grindelwald had to do was prove that Grindelwald wasn’t like Voldemort, and he isn’t. Voldemort attracted people through power, Grindelwald does it through persuasion and finesse. He gets them to see his point of view all without lifting a finger…too much. It really is Depp’s best performance in a while. And again, I hope it continues.
Meanwhile, the arrival of Albus Dumbledore brings an interesting twist to things. We find out that he was the one who sent Newt to New York in the first film, and that he has personally chosen Newt to take down Grindelwald. Jude Law does a good job as Albus, showing off the compassionate teacher, but also the trickster who knows how to get his will done without much effort. He also knows how to inspire, which a great scene at the beginning shows off with his students. To be fair, I wish he had more to do, but that’s something we’ll have to hope for with the next one.
For those wondering about the “regular” cast, Fantastic Beasts The Crimes of Grindelwald does actually some really good work with Tina, Jacob and Queenie (and Newt obviously). Jacob and Queenie’s subplot might be the best of the bunch honestly. As their love takes many turns and I’m very curious to see how it’ll end up when the movies are done. Tina is given the least to do, but the scenes she has really works, especially the ones with Newt.
Creedence returns, and while he is a major focal point of the story, he honestly doesn’t get much to do except stare at the other characters dramatically and ask the same question over and over again. Hopefully, not unlike Dumbledore, he’ll get more voice time in the third film, because he really needs it. Especially after the big revelation about him.
But, therein lies the problem about Fantastic Beasts The Crimes of Grindelwald. Mainly, they focus so much on a singular plotline that everything is kind of just thrown in at times. A perfect example is Nicolas Flamel. He’s a nod to the first Harry Potter book, and while he does play a “part” in the film, it’s unclear as to WHY they needed him.
Furthermore, there’s apparently a book of poems that is considered to be full of prophecies that is a vital part of the story. We know prophecies can be true via the Harry Potter books, but this was out of left field, and it turned out (in a very obvious manner) that the prophecy was wrong. So that means that half of the plot in many ways was just a big feint in a way that we knew it would be.
Which is actually another problem, because the new characters are either left with simple arcs, or no arcs at all, and it’s sometimes confusing as to what is going on, or why one of them did something. The biggest of all being Lita Lestrange. She loved Newt, clearly, and obviously, so why did she marry Thesus? We literally have no idea, and then she dies at the end of the film!
Another odd issue that I can honestly say I’ve never seen with a Harry Potter film before is shoddy camerawork. There were numerous times that they went to a first-person perspective (in regards to looking at other characters), and it looked REALLY weird. There were also noticable “camera shake” scenes that really took me away from the moment.
Being fair, I am excited for the next movie. They set up Grindelwald to be a great villain on par with Voldemort. Queen’s betrayal is going to be a big focus point, as its Creedence’s true heritage. Plus, we know now that a blood pact is the reason Dumbledore didn’t take the fight to Grindelwald immediately, so getting that destroyed is a must in the next film.
Fantastic Beasts The Crimes of Grindelwald isn’t a bad movie. Truly. It’s much better than the previous Fantastic Beasts film. It still has issues, and I’m worried that the next THREE films won’t be able to keep our attention. But there is hope. Especially with Newt having picked his side.
Fantastic Beasts The Crimes of Grindelwald Review
Fantastic Beasts The Crimes of Grindelwald is a step up from the previous film in many ways. It still suffers from issues, but it does also pick up the slack by focus on certain things that truly shine. Don’t say that to the Nifflers.