Review: “Crimes of Grindelwald”

Originally published on November 30, 2018 in The Holcad Student Newspaper.

“Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald” is the second movie in the now five-movie sub-franchise of the Harry Potter series. Released November 16, “Crimes of Grindelwald” is packed with new beasts (not enough), new characters (too many), and a very confused plotline (no opinion). Its predecessor, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” started the franchise on a strong note, but this new movie leaves the world wondering: where does this all go from here?

I will admit that I certainly enjoyed “Crimes of Grindelwald.” Anything to get me remotely close to the magical nostalgia of my childhood Harry Potter days will always be enjoyable, but this movie was flawed in many aspects. The characters and plot felt misplaced at certain parts, and the emotional connection to the characters (which was a huge selling point for the original Harry Potter movies) was almost completely nonexistent.

Speaking of Harry Potter, the best part of the movie was when the camera returned to the ever-welcome landscape of Hogwarts. The camera circled the castle, twisted its way into the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, and focused in on a profile of Professor Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law). While all of this was occurring, the familiar “Hedwig’s Theme” played intensely in the background. It was a truly magical scene, and the incorporation of the musical leitmotif from the previous movies pulled in the audience, but the reminiscence was short-lived.

The majority of the movie plays out in Paris, France. Scenes quickly jump from one to the next and information is rapidly thrown at the audience, some of which doesn’t seem to be beneficial to the current story arc. Characters are hastily introduced and some of their backstories feel pointless. J. K. Rowling, the creator and screenwriter of the magical world, feeds the audience a painstakingly in-depth narrative that incorporates new characters and over-explains small details all while leaving the audience with a most troublesome cliffhanger and twist at the end.

Even some of the main characters felt out of place in this movie. Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) was the hero of “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” but here he just feels like a character they had to shuffle along for the sake of continuity. The central conflict felt like it could have been easily resolved without Newt even being present. It’s assumed that Newt will continue to be the “hero” (I use this term lightly) for the next three movies, but I do hope they find a way to make him more relevant.

There is a brief moment when it seems Newt may be getting his shining moment, but the scene ends up reverting the audience’s attention back to Dumbledore. Towards the end of the film Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) asks Newt: “Do you think Dumbledore will mourn for you?” This is a central question of the movie, and it begs to be answered. We all want to know: will Dumbledore mourn for Newt? Previous movies have confirmed that Dumbledore used Harry Potter as a pawn in his fight against Lord Voldemort, and, honestly, it seems like he’s doing the same to Newt. Unlike Harry, who needed to be the central hero of the movies in order to defeat Voldemort, Newt seems misplaced here.

We can’t hate Dumbledore too much though, because he’s our only connection to the previous world of magic we all love. The movie includes snippets of Dumbledore, but his screen time is less than ideal and much too short, especially considering that the series seems to be shifting towards a focus on the Grindelwald-versus-Dumbledore narrative.

Speaking of Grindelwald, he’s supposed to be the villain, right? If that’s true, why is his character so emotionally attractive and resonant? I felt conflicted through the whole movie because, although Grindelwald is supposed to be the bad guy, he kept bringing up good points in order to prove his arguments. I definitely would have joined Grindelwald’s side. I don’t believe this was Rowling’s intention, yet the feeling remains. She’s created so many one-dimensional protagonists that it’s hard to grow fond of any of them.

If you’re an avid fan of Harry Potter, “Crimes of Grindelwald” is a must-see. Regardless of its many flaws, it is nice to return to the magical world of Harry Potter, even if it is just for a moment, and you’ll definitely want to see the twist at the end. However, if this is your first time jumping into the magical world of Harry Potter, I’d suggest starting with one of the other movies. You’ll thank me later.

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