With the sequel though, thats no longer an option. Things have been established. This needs to stand alone. It needs to have an interesting story with dynamic characters and only tangentially tease toward future films that may or may not happen. However, Rowlings script goes the opposite way. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is even less concerned with telling a concise, satisfying story than its predecessor. Whats worse is at almost every turn, it weaves in broad strokes created only to set up the next movie, few of which add to whats actually happening on screen.
J K Rowling looks chic in green with husband Neil Michael Murray at Fantastic Beasts premiere
That war is not in this movie though. This movie is about physically finding Credence, which happens very easily all things considered, and then about finding out who Credence is. Thats it. To set up that revelation, the film is overloaded with long exposition dumps filled with flashbacks, ethereal visions, misdirection, and more. Those sections get very confusing at times, especially when you remember Credence was all but killed in the previous movie, a fact thats explained here by a few lines of throwaway dialogue.
Thats the biggest tell that The Crimes of Grindelwald doesnt care about the movie you are watching. Its filled with odd, annoying coincidences or unexplained links that feel unnecessarily lazy. For example, at the end of the first film, Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) had his memory erased. But here, he and Queenie (Alison Sudol) randomly show up in London and break into Newts house like nothing ever happened. When asked about it, a few lines of dialogue shrug off the seemingly huge fact that a magic spell didnt work as intended. Another such example is the way the film forces a wedge between Tina and Newt with a piece of fake news. Or Voldermorts snake Nagini (Claudia Kim) being introduced as a person for no other reason than to give Credence someone to talk to. Theres a convoluted subplot in place just to keep Dumbledore out of the action (likely for another movie). It even introduces a famous Harry Potter name like Nicolas Flamel (inventor of the sorcerers stone, played here by Brontis Jodorowsky) for no other reason other than to wink at the audience.
Video: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald Review
So many things are either completely glossed over or obviously included only to set up a sequel, its easy to forget the movie has plenty of great stuff in it. More so than even the last film, which itself had some cool things in it, The Crimes of Grindelwald has tons of incredible magic effects, dazzling new sets, and adorable (and terrifying) new beasts, as well as an avalanche of links back to the original Harry Potter franchise. And when youre watching Newt solve a crime with wistful magic or taming a giant beast with a toy, its easy to get lost in the meaningless moment. And yet, all of them are like sprinkles on an underwhelming sundae. Sure, they make it look good, and they may even taste good. But they go fast and work mostly to distract from the truth: that whats underneath is simply not good enough to stand on its own.
Once Rowling and Yates have shown enough chase sequences or wizard fights that they can finally stop spinning their wheels and explain who Credence is, its a solid enough reveal that youll walk out of the theater semi-satisfied and curious where things go next. But ultimately, all the steps the film took to get there amount to so little, that feeling is as fleeting as its narrative. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is chapter two in a longer story that may look better once we see the rest—but, on its own, it fails to live up to its Harry Potter roots.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald opens November 14. The sequel is set for release November 20, 2020.
Fantastic Beasts: Jude Law clarifies massive continuity error in The Crimes of Grindelwald
Now the films stars Jude Law and Eddie Redmayne, who play young Albus Dumbledore and magizoologist hero Newt Scamander respectively, are making those links to the Boy Who Lived explicit in a new featurette thats casting a spell online.
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“This wizarding world that J.K. Rowling has created is so rich and vast from Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts. There are so many connections between characters and storylines past and present and so many secrets yet to be revealed,” says Law.
“In this movie, we are exploring the rise of the first dark lord, Gellert Grindelwald,” adds Redmayne.
“Today, were gonna remind you how the film connects to the Potter story we all know so well and love,” concludes Law. “So sit back and enjoy the magic.”
As Rowlings website Pottermore explains and the clip reveals, the similarities between Newt and Harry are not so easy to ignore. For instance, over a voiceover from Michael Gambons older Dumbledore talking about “time,” the featurette cuts between our two heroes from two very different times and intermingles them with their Dark Wizard antagonists: Voldemort in Harrys case and Gellert Grindelwald in Newts.
“Mysterious thing, time. Once there was a young man like you who sat in this very hall. Walked this castles corridor. He seemed to all the world a student like any other,” the older Dumbledore tells Hogwarts students in the sixth film, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
Of course, the headmaster then was referring to Tom Riddle, aka He Who Must Not Be Named, but as the featurette points out, it could just as easily apply to a young Newt and his blonde-haired nemesis Grindelwald, played in the film by Johnny Depp, who aims to lord over both the wizarding and non-wizarding world.
More connections abound. Remember the mirror of Erised? First seen in Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone when the lightning scarred boy magician peers into it and sees his late mother and father, Lily and James Potter, the enchanted window into the “most desperate desires of our heart” makes an encore appearance. As seen in the trailer, the young Dumbledore stands before the mirror and finds himself face to face with a reflection of Grindelwald, hinting at a deeper longing perhaps?
“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is enough to make J.K. Rowling fans weep in frustration, provided they can even keep their eyes open. Presumably Rowling, her fellow producers and the top brass at Warner Bros. were thinking about those fans — meaning their capacity for pleasure and enchantment, not just their pocketbooks — when they decided to launch a series of prequels to their justly celebrated Harry Potter cycle.”
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Of course, Rowling first revealed Dumbledore was gay back in 2007, prompting fans to parse the nature of the relationship between he and Grindelwald, childhood best friends who grew up in Godrics Hollow.
Video: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald Behind The Scenes
Then theres the parallels with the Deathly Hallows. The video shows Harry introduced to the triangular symbol for the three magical objects that “make one Master of Death” in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1. We then see Fantastic Beasts Percival Graves, the character played by Colin Farrell before he turned into Grindelwald, giving the necklace to Credence in that movie.
As Potterheads whove studied the vast lore on this subject know, both Dumbledore and Grindelwald obsessed over the power of the Hallows which took the form of the Elder Wand, the Resurrection Stone, and the Cloak of Invisibility. As the featurette makes clear, its Grindelwald who has the Elder Wand now, even though we know Dumbledore will come to possess it later on after he defeats his old friend in a final clash in 1945 – and Voldemort will years later stop at nothing to seize its power.
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No doubt, Rowling will make deeper connections in three more Fantastic Beasts installments that are in the works.
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