Last week, I was finally able to see the new Fantastic Beasts movie. I had heard from several people, including massive Harry Potter fans, that it was terrible, so I went in with low expectations. Surprisingly, I was still disappointed.
I could write a twenty-page essay on why this movie was terrible, but I’ve tried to condense my thoughts and focus on the biggest problems I had with the film. I still wrote a lot, which I apologize for, but I just had to get my feelings out. This review will have minor spoilers for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, and if you need a refresher on its premise, click here to watch the trailer.
Now, where to start? The Crimes of Grindelwald has so many flaws, but the most striking one is the lack of any discernible plot. Aside from a few major events in the beginning and end, nothing really happens in this film. It mostly consists of exposition, and feels like a buildup to the real story, which we never get. I was surprised when it reached the climax, because it felt like nothing had happened yet. Part of the cause of this problem, in my opinion, is the fact that Fantastic Beasts is going to be a five-film series, which is clearly just a cash grab. This second installment shows that there is not enough material to cover five films, as it is not a self-contained story with a typical story arc and conclusion, but rather a prolonged exposition setting up the next movie, where, presumably, stuff actually happens. The Crimes of Grindelwald is meant to be watched immediately before watching the next film in order to understand what is going on, instead of being watched because it’s a complete and enjoyable story on its own.
Another gaping problem with The Crimes of Grindelwald is the characters, as there are too many, their arcs are either nonexistent or not believable, and, despite the film being almost two and a half hours long, it felt like I spent very little time with each character. Unlike the first Fantastic Beasts film, which has four main characters and a couple side characters, the sequel has a large cast of characters, new and old, and it just feels crowded. There were so many people to keep track of that I eventually gave up, and I genuinely can’t remember the names of some of the new characters. To make matters worse, the characters are broken up into small groups, so the story constantly shifts to show what is going on with other characters, and this makes the time we spend with each character feel shorter. It also feels short because nothing really happens to these characters, and most of them don’t grow or change at all. Contrastingly, one of the characters changes significantly, but the change is extremely radical and receives little explanation, so it does not feel believable and just serves as shock value. The issues with the characters make this already unappealing film even more difficult to care about.
Lastly, one huge issue that I (and most Harry Potter fans) have with The Crimes of Grindelwald is that it commits the worst crime possible: it goes against Harry Potter canon. Casual fans of Harry Potter may not notice or care about this, but for hardcore fans such as myself, it is unacceptable. J. K. Rowling spent years crafting this world and making sure she got every detail right, so it is extremely strange and disappointing that she could either forget what she originally wrote, or decide to change it after the fact. One example of her going against canon is that Professor McGonagall is teaching at Hogwarts in this film, despite the fact that she wasn’t even born yet. Perhaps J. K. Rowling decided to change her birthdate to include her in the film, but she has such a small part that it seems unnecessary; she is essentially only there so fans can go, “OMG, it’s McGonagall!”. The other option is that she forgot that McGonagall wasn’t born yet, which is even more disappointing, because it shows that she does not really care about this series, and that makes it difficult for me to get invested in it.
The other instances of breaking canon are different; she did not make a mistake or forget something, but rather changed certain aspects of the Harry Potter storyline. Fans such as myself who have read the books will notice this immediately, and likely feel angry that she carelessly went back and changed her original story in big ways. I have seen arguments attempting to explain why these changes were not included in Harry Potter from the beginning, but I don’t buy any of them. She describes everything in detail in Harry Potter, so there’s no way she wouldn’t have included these aspects of the story. It is clear that she decided to change these after the fact, despite the fact that these changes make no sense in the canonical story. One big revelation changes everything, and it doesn’t even make sense in the film itself, as there are no hints or clues for it. It seems to exist almost entirely for shock value, which is very disappointing and once again shows how little effort and care were put into this story.
Now the question remains: Can the Fantastic Beasts franchise be saved? After seeing the second installment, my hopes have dwindled significantly. If the subsequent films have actual plots and character development and explain the choices to go against canon, I could potentially get behind them, but I’m not going to get my hopes up, and neither should you. I would give The Crimes of Grindelwald a 4/10, and I would suggest that potential viewers just stick to Harry Potter.