So in this review I am not going to spoil anything major that happens in FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD. However, the spoilers do affect what I feel about the film, so while I will allude to the spoilers and give very vague hints about what is going on, I do not outright reveal the who, what, where, when, how, or why. Well, I do have to talk about the end, sort of, so I do ruin one when, but that’s it. If you want to go in this film as fresh as I did (I literally only saw the two trailers and a couple of tv spots), then I wouldn’t read this review until you have seen the film, which comes out tomorrow night. I guess you could say this movie has sort of semi-spoilers, but not really. If however, you just don’t get a shit or one of the ones messaging me last night wanting me to just outright tell you the ending but nothing else, I’d say this is safe for you to read. But for my intro, I’m just going to copy and paste the tiny paragraph I wrote on Facebook, because its the first time I had all my thoughts organized and I still think it gives off perfectly what I thought of the film: FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD is my least favorite film now in the Wizarding World of movies. It’s an unfortunate bridge film that has too much exposition, too much story, and not enough cinematic magic that made most of the films that came before this so wonderful. WTF revelations and too many questions make it seem like J.K. Rowling is pulling stuff out of her ass where in the end it might turn her into Damon Lindelof in the eyes of not just regular audiences, but her legion of followers. The shocks and double crosses were cheap and underdeveloped and the cool and wonderful creatures that had a central role in the first film feel shoved aside for mythological fan service. I was extremely disappointed.
Yes, that’s right, I did not like this movie much. And I love the Harry Potter world. I love J.K. Rowling’s universe. I’ve read all seven books, the little charity trilogy that contains Fantastic Beasts, and have even read the screenplay to Cursed Child Parts 1 and 2. I am not obsessed with the mythology though and couldn’t tell you stuff on the top of my head if asked, so when reading this, and if you are a Potter person, keep that in mind. The beginning of the film showed some promise with a pretty cool prison escape and a couple of more fantastic beasts exploits to the point where I was wondering why this movie was getting bad reviews. But then, sure enough, it all came crumbling down piece by piece, beat by beat, endless exposition after endless exposition. And I get that there is supposed to be 5 films so this is all supposed to (hopefully) pay off in the end. Originally this was supposed to be a trilogy, and if that was still the case, I would give this film a little more credit where its due, because I would accept it as a bridge film. But Rowling said this is supposed to be a 5 film adventure, so it is unforgivable that the bridge film is the 2nd in the series. It should be the 4th, the one right before the finale, like Half Blood Prince was (my former least favorite film in the Wizarding World), and I might could consider the third being the bridge film as well, making a little healthy sandwich where the first two are individual self contained tales, the middle exposition, and the last two being payoffs. But NOT the 2ND movie.
The whole movie is just characters talking about what is what, only occasionally doing a minor flashback here and there to bridge your imagination gap, and the creatures that were a central and fun part to the first film are now just awkwardly shoved in the story at random different places because, producers, because they said, “the series is called Fantastic Beasts so we gotta have Fantastic Beasts in there no matter what!” The finale is even anti-climatic, with people just talking and then stumbling, performing a little magic, and then just talking. Where people have said that the Lord of the Rings are just walking movies, well, this film is the Lord of the Rings of talking ones. Oh, were you excited that Nagini (future Horocrux and pet snake to Voldemort) is being introduced in this one? She does absolutely nothing in this film and in it entirely for fan service. Wondering how she is just a snake later on in the universe? Explained away, instead of actually showing the audience what is going on, with one line of dialogue. Did you like all the characters in the first Fantastic Beasts film? So did I, and Rowling does something so uncharacteristic and unforgiving to one of them, one of my favorite parts of the first film, and completely just destroys it like a kid stomping on repeatedly a cockroach nest he just found. Curious about any of the new characters? Don’t be. One of them shows up randomly near the end of the film and basically does nothing, and one of them is set up, explained, and then discarded.
Which brings me to the “WTF Revelation” at the ending of the film. But before I get to that, let’s talk about prequels really quick. Prequels most of the time don’t work because we know what is going to happen to most of the characters. Hence why the Star Wars prequels aren’t that good. The Hobbit movies aren’t that good. And if you know any of your Harry Potter lore, all the books and movies included, you know what is going to happen to Dumbledore, Newt, Tina, Grindelwald, Nicholas Flammel, Nagini, and a couple of others. So where are the stakes you may ask? Prequels like to play it safe, so they will abide by the previous established lore almost word for word for upsetting fans. They might everyone in a while add little twists to what you already know, but not big enough to piss you off, usually something small yet charming. I could name endless examples but I don’t have time. The end of the film brings a revelation of some kind, to a character, event, whatever I’m not telling you, that was not in any previously established Harry Potter lore, and is so big that how Rowling is going to explain how none of the characters mention it in the Harry Potter films or the books is going to be quite challenging. Let’s just say that if I told you this revelation, and you went studying and researching Harry Potter right now, you would not come up with this revelation in any of the mythology that is available to read right now, or even hints of it. And maybe that is the point, I get it, but it just seems like it is going to be extremely hard to explain away in a future installment.
Want me to get to some positives about the film? Sure, I can definitely say that I think Jude Law was hands down the best part of the film and is a fantastic younger Albus Dumbledore. When the films goes back to Hogwarts (not a spoiler, it was in the early trailers), the movie has a very nice temporary shine. Alas, it is short lived, as Jude Law isn’t in the film as much as I would like him to be, nor is Hogwarts. I know we need to Last Jedi everything and forget the past and kill it if we have to, but Hogwarts is just so damn fun to be in and around. I still like Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander. I think he’s excellent in the role and was still in top shape here. I still love Dan Fogler Jacob Kowalski as Newt’s muggle new friend, although another one line of dialogue explains away the situation he was in at the end of the last film. The CGI and effects are still really good, and when the creatures do come on screen, albeit extremely forced within the story this time, they still bring a smile to my face and are magical to watch and see what they do next. I like Katherine Waterson, even though she’s not in the film very much this time, and Ezra Miller still plays it nice and cold as Credence (he didn’t die in the first one, if you watch closely at the end you can very much see that.)
Now let’s get to Johnny Depp. His whole personal story with his ex-wife Amber Heard aside, there is no doubt that he is a good actor, but lately, he’s just played weird characters, or has revisited old ones one too many times. I don’t really like him all that much as Grindelwald. It’s just Johnny Depp playing another one of his weird, annoying characters as of late, and this one of course was not a lovable one, so it was hard to get into. I think that if he would’ve played Colin Farrell’s part in Fantastic Beasts, and then Colin Farrell ended up being the big reveal of Grindelwald at the end of the first film, this whole series would’ve rocked its villain. Colin Farrell would’ve nailed it, but Johnny Depp is what we’ve got and…eh.
I could honestly also be disappointed because I loved the first Fantastic Beasts film so much (it was in my top ten somewhere the year it came out). Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them has great re watch value. Whenever my wife puts it on, we watch it and enjoy it, never bored. I was bored during this film. When walking out of the theater, both her and I agreed that this doesn’t have very much re watch value unless you are doing a marathon of the whole series. And that’s where I think it will be for me. While I was disappointed, it’s not a terrible film, it will just be like Half Blood Prince or Deathly Hallows Part 1, where I will never get the urge to put it in my blu ray player randomly unless I’m watching everything in order to experience the whole adventure. J.K. Rowling needs some serious screenwriting help for the next film. She needs to co-write it with someone knows how to write a scene where it shows something to the audience rather than just telling the audience. There is no doubt she is a fantastic author, but a fantastic author doesn’t necessarily make a fantastic screenwriter. Totally different beasts.
My Personal Rank of the Wizarding World Films:
1. Order of The Phoenix
2. Prisoner of Azkaban
3. Sorcerer’s Stone
4. Deathly Hallows Part 2
5. Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
6. Goblet of Fire
7. Chamber of Secrets
8. Deathly Hallows Part 1
9. Half Blood Prince
10. Crimes of Grindelwald