EXCLUSIVE Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald Review

Antony Post, Arts and Culture Editor

“It is not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live”. These words are those written by J.K. Rowling, and spoken by Albus Dumbledore in the first Harry Potter novel. I bring it up here because it is a sentiment that I feel Ms. Rowling needs to be re-acquainted with. Focus on the life you’re living now, and not so much on the future. Unfortunately, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald does the opposite, setting up a greater story instead of crafting a greater film in its own right.

Now, something to consider before you continue reading is that I am a massive fan of J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World, as big a fan as you can be. So, this pains me to have to write a review where I have to critique something I love. But let it not go unsaid that I did enjoy a considerable amount of this movie. It is not a terrible movie by any sense; however, like George Lucas with the Star Wars Prequels and Peter Jackson with The Hobbit Trilogy, these esteemed creators, who I adore and owe so much to, get too lost in the worlds they are creating, and forget what is most important when crafting a compelling story.

When the film began, I was really enthralled by it. David Yates’ direction matched with James Newton Howard’s score were both very well utilized. So is the production design, costumes, visual effects, and performances. Each actor here is doing spectacular work with what they are given, with standouts being Jude Law as Dumbledore, Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander, Alison Sudol as Queenie Goldstein, Dan Fogler as Jacob Kowalski, Zoë Kravitz as Leta Lestrange, and Johnny Depp as Grindelwald. There are a lot of great character moments, and this does fix a lot of the problems I had with the first Fantastic Beasts film. I would even go so far to say that half of this movie is really superb and put a smile on my face. The film enchanted me in so many ways. So, what could be so wrong with it if all of this is good?

Around the halfway mark, I started to get the sense that this was not a contained story, subbing in set up for later installments (the three sequels this is getting in the next six years), rather than telling a complete story here. And what annoys me is that the story that they could have focused on was really gripping and original. The Harry Potter series centers around destiny, and the journey the titular character takes to achieve his place in the Wizarding World, a place where he belongs. On the other hand, the Fantastic Beasts series, as explored in this film, is about people who do not belong, and feel that they can not make a difference, but throughout their journeys, they realize this fact to be false. This juxtaposition that Rowling inflicts on these different outlooks of the Wizarding World is really intriguing. But, just like Lucas and Jackson, the need to expand and expand and expand the mythology just shadows these stellar ideas from making much of an impact. I mean, how can even an outstanding author like Rowling, balance nine main characters in a two hour screenplay? She does not have her usual 800 pages of a novel to flesh these characters out. Furthermore, when it came to the Potter movies, if the film skipped over a part or did not fill in all the details of a certain character or event, we had the books to fill in the gaps, which we do not here.

As the movie moves closer to the end, and the ultimate reveal which is clearly as big a set up as one can get, the film just loses it purpose and becomes convoluted along the way. While greatness is seeped throughout, the glaring problems are so easy to fix that I am surprised that so many of them made it to the final draft. Take the original Star Wars. That film had three main characters and one villain. The simpler it is on a structure standpoint, the more the story can still grow and, more importantly, breathe.

In the end, this mixed magical offering is one riddled, or is that “Tom Riddle-d”, with problems, but it offers just enough to stand among the other Potter films, even if it is at the bottom of the list. Overall, enter at your own risk if you choose to see this film. I had a mixed to positive experience, but you might differ. Leaving the theater, the people to my left loved the film, but the person to my right were underwhelmed. And again, it is not a bad movie, just a good movie that is VERY messy. Hopefully, J.K. Rowling, who I love and respect, will not fall into the same snags that caught previous cinematic storytellers for the next three films.

Dumbledore said “Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light”. All I can say is that I hope that the light is turned on now, so fans like me can truly be as happy as we were at the end of Deathly Hallows. For right now, the mischief is not quite yet managed.