I write about movies occasionally for my work with TheGamer. It is super conducive to my work if I go out of my way to see big movies as soon as I can.
It is also super conducive to my pleasure.
So when Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald came out, I texted my friend Bubba and asked if he’d like to see it with me immediately. He was totally game, and we showed up to the movie theater an hour earlier than we needed to. And since the theater we went to was out in the boonies, all we could really do in the meantime was walk circles around the place until it was time to go in.
After all that loitering, both Bubba and I were pretty amped for the movie, even if it ended up being bad.
Boy, was it a bad movie.
Now, before I have a bunch of Harry Potter fans leaping down my throat and screaming that I’m not appreciating it for the lore-fest that it is, let me tell you about my own Harry Potter fandom. I would never call myself a Potterhead, but I have read all the books, seen all the movies, caught up on the news on Pottermore, and occasionally peeked at a Harry Potter wiki page from time to time.
So I know my Harry Potter.
And I still thought The Crimes of Grindelwald sucked harder than a Dyson vacuum cleaner.
Side note: I debated before writing this about whether to include spoilers or not, but honestly, I shouldn’t have worried about it at all. This movie is so bad, you don’t need spoilers to understand what’s wrong with it. So what follows should be a spoiler-free review.
I’ll break down my below average review into four parts: the characters, the plot, the setting, and the lore.
1. Too Many Characters and Not Enough Time
So let’s start with the characters.
We met a neat collection of characters in the first Fantastic Beasts movie, and a lot of them are back for the sequel. I grew to like those guys in the first movie, so I did not mind their return in The Crimes of Grindelwald, not even stuttering and eye-contact-avoiding Newt’s.
We just don’t get enough of them in this latest movie.
They’re established characters, I get that. They don’t need to have their origin explained again. But could we at least have a little character development for them? Just a tiny bit of rational development is all I ask.
What little time we have for their personal arcs is not enough. Their development is either so hastened along that it makes no sense or missing altogether.
Part of the reason these characters don’t have enough time is because a bunch of other characters get introduced and time has to be devoted to them. But see, these brand-spanking-new characters get little development as well.
The one character I enjoyed the most in this movie was Leta Lestrange, and I can honestly say it’s because her character had time to develop. (At least a little.) We got to linger and ponder on her motivations and her future choices in a way that we did not with the other characters.
I had no problem with the acting whatsoever. I think everyone in The Crimes of Grindelwald has proven themselves to be talented actors.
It’s honestly the fault of the writing.
2. There Is Such a Thing as Too Much Plot
I’m not fond of most of the Harry Potter movies. They can’t do the books justice. There is so much richness in the books, the movies just fail to capture all of it.
But it’s no easy task to condense a 700-page book into a 2 hour movie. I can’t say I would do any better.
The first Fantastic Beasts movie was great because of how streamlined it was. It did not have to deal with de-cluttering the plot of a book. It was created to be a movie and that’s what it was.
For some reason, The Crimes of Grindelwald feels like a dense book is behind it and the director just kind of failed to smooth away unnecessary plot points.
If you’ve watched the film already, you know what I’m talking about. There are too many moments that we just don’t need later on. For example, do you remember Bunty? (This is not exactly a spoiler, so relax everybody.) Now, it may take you a while to remember who Bunty was, but once you do, can you honestly say that Bunty was a necessary addition to the story?
But a jam-packed plot isn’t the only problem The Crimes of Grindelwald suffers from.
There are times when the plot just doesn’t make sense. Characters do things for no easily discernible reason or magic goes unexplained.
Magic is like the ultimate deus ex machina, and I never thought that would bother me. But it does. The thing about Harry Potter that I loved was that magic was wondrous, but it had rules. It had rules. So while some occurrences might have been extraordinary and inexplicable to Harry at times, they were simply not comprehended by him at the moment.
In The Crimes of Grindelwald, magic is used willy-nilly to accomplish tasks and it leaves me, a long-time Harry Potter fan, wondering how that happened.
And don’t get me started on the plain old nonsensical moments that go unexplained. At one point, a character is told the name of a location, and he somehow ends up there without a map, without transportation, and without a basic understanding of the language spoken in the area.
3. The Background Is Relegated to the Background
The Crimes of Grindelwald takes place, for the most part, in Paris. Each of our favorite characters are able to explore varying locations in the vast city, but not enough time is spent letting us get acclimated to our surroundings.
This might sound like a silly thing to get pissed over, but goddamn it, movies are a way to transport you to places that are wondrous and magical, and in a goddamn universe where magic exists, the setting should be just as important as the characters for crying out loud.
Look, just take a stroll with me down memory lane to the first Harry Potter movie. Hogwarts was introduced to us the same way it was introduced to Harry. We learned to recognize its silhouette, its interiors, its notable rooms.
Hogwarts was a fantastic setting, and it did such a good job of imprinting itself in my mind, that the few times we stopped off at Hogwarts in The Crimes of Grindelwald, my heart went pitter-pat.
This latest travesty of a movie has none of the magic in its other locations. We stop off at the French Ministry of Magic, a magic circus in an alley, and the Lestrange family tomb. No spark of interest in any of these places.
At one point, Newt makes a pit stop by the White Cliffs of Dover, and I actually whispered excitedly to Bubba, “Look! It’s the White Cliffs of Dover!”
There’s a problem in your Wizarding movie if the best new location is a Muggle one.
4. Oh, Dear Lore
The Crimes of Grindelwald has some…interesting new additions to Harry Potter lore. I’m sure there are die-hard fans out there who are geeking out over some of these revelations.
I’m not one of them.
I get why franchise-building is a lucrative opportunity that film companies want to pursue. But this latest attempt at making a cinematic universe to match Marvel’s has just made me wearier of the trend.
At the end of the movie, there is a big reveal that sets the stage for the conflict to come in future movies.
But instead of igniting my interest the way it was supposed to, this reveal doused it.
I mean, why should I care about these lore changes when it’s clear these lore changes don’t seem to care about what has come before.
If you want to see the movie, be my guest. I’m a firm believer in the idea that everyone should form their own opinion about movies and things like that. It makes discussions of said movies way more interesting.
Plus, the movie wasn’t entirely bad. I do love cute CGI animals. The Nifflers make an appearance again, and the Zouwu is weirdly adorable.
I rate The Crimes of Grindelwald a watch-it-so-that-I-can-complain-about-it-to-you-and-we-can-collectively-call-it-a-piece-of-flammable-feces.