The wizarding world grew wider still with the release of the latest Harry Potter prequel film in the form of Fantastic Beast and Where to Find them: The Crimes of Grindelwald. The film is set some seventy years before the events of Harry Potter, during the height of Grindelwald’s powers. Eddie Redmayne and co reprise their roles from the first Beasts film, while newcomers to the franchise, Jude Law and Johnny Depp, introduce younger versions of characters well known to Harry Potter faithful in the form of Albus Dumbledore and Gellert Grindelwald.
I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this film. I have a lot of faith in the likes of David Yates and Eddie Redmayne, but the critics have been absolutely ripping into this one. They’ve been merciless. I read somewhere that it’s “the worst thing to happen to prequel filmmaking since A Phantom Menace.” Woah. Without any exaggeration, I honestly have a hard time imagining anything quite that bad. I walked into the theatre for this one slightly apprehensive of what was to come. What I saw was an average, if slightly forgettable franchise filler film. Eddie Redmayne does not get enough credit for the phenomenal job he’s done with the character of Newt Schamander. Schamander’s relationship with Tina Goldstien, Katherine Waterston’s character, which was a little lifeless in the first film, showed some awkward promise; a foundation upon which to build. I was worried about Jude Law and Johnny Depp, but I could be heard singing their praises after watching the film. Johnny Depp is, of course, a genius unlike any other. He gives Grindelwald a certain gravitas that makes up for maybe not looking exactly like what I imagined Grindelwald to look like. I absolutely loved Jude Law. He really captured it. It’s a little difficult to articulate, but I was completely and utterly sold by his portrayal of Dumbledore in this film, and I’m excited to see where he goes with it. He really gave off the twinkle-in-the-eye effect that Dumbledore has, while equally communicating a deep, deep sorrow, most notably in a scene with the Mirror of Erised.
The main criticism I’ve noticed from just about everyone who didn’t like the film is that nothing really happens. There’s an extent to which that’s true, the plot doesn’t exactly bound forward in this film, but it’s a little unfair to say nothing happened. A few new characters were introduced, some of which were interesting and some of which were decidedly not. Zoe Kravitz’s Leta Lestrange was meh until her slightly odd death, which I don’t expect to remain permanent. Newt’s brother, Theseus, was bland and shallow, which I hope they change in the forthcoming films because I actually liked the little bits and pieces of relationship they showed between the two brothers. Nagini being a human was far and away the most interesting addition, but even her character was effectively not there. I tend to give them a little leeway for such things, they’ve got three movies left and the irritatingly banal character development in this film might be course corrected later on. One thing I had little to no patience for, however, was the turn that Queenie’s character took. Jacob was always my favorite character from the first film, but the cart goes off the rails a little with their relationship at the start, and Queenie’s turn to Grindelwald, ridden with character inconsistencies, made literally no sense whatsoever. This is something I expect to be improved upon in later films, else it will stand as a gaping hole in the Harry Potter extended universe.
A lot of people got mad at the twist at the end. Personally, I’m scratching my head. There’s no reason why an Aurelius Dumbledore wouldn’t have been discussed in the books, especially when Dumbledore’s family history, as well as his history with Grindelwald, was brought to the forefront of the narrative in the seventh book. Obviously it’s possible Grindelwald was lying; perhaps he is related by a less direct connection than siblinghood or not at all. The presence of the phoenix, who I assume was Fawkes, might invalidate the second of those two explanations. One way or another, we will know as the next few films come out. As of now, it looks like J.K just gave us what Star Wars didn’t in a character’s lineage. Whether I like it or not will be determined, most likely, by the details we get in the later films.
All in all, The Grimes of Grindelwald was not nearly as bad a film as some people might make it out to be, though a little underwhelming. It could never be as bad as The Cursed Child, which I honestly believe to be the worst canon to a beloved franchise ever; but the Fantastic Beasts franchise has a little to make up for when it premiers its third film in 2020.
Aman’s Rating: 63/100 Aryamaan’s Rating: N/A