I’m going to come out and say it: despite being a Potter fan since I was like four years old, and despite really liking the first Fantastic Beasts movie, I was not looking forward to this film. The controversies I’d recently become aware of, the lacklustre trailers, the cynical part of me constantly asking “Why? Why do we need this?”… It all stacked up.
But two Saturdays ago, my lab assistant, Pinkie, dragged me out to see a movie after going mini putting (I was god awful, in case any of you were wondering). We had our options down to Bohemian Rhapsody and Crimes of Grindelwald, and the deciding factor was just whichever movie was playing by the time we escaped our mini putting adventure.
It turned out we were just in time to see CoG, and so that’s the movie we saw. Don’t worry, I’ll see Bohemian Rhapsody at some point, I’m sure.
So we grabbed some drinks, some stale nachos and plastic cheese to not eat, and sat waiting for the film to start.
Sitting there, we saw a teaser for Into the Spider-verse and trailers for Aquaman, Alita: Battle Angel, and Mortal Engines and jeez, after all that I just couldn’t help but think: “Please…can one of those movies play instead?”
Before even getting into CoG, may I just say that Aquaman’s newest trailer makes me even more hyped to see my orange boi on the big screen, Battle Angel looks sick and I’m hyped, and Mortal Engines…goddamn YES. BRING IT TO ME. And Spider-verse looks adorable and I love Spiderpig (yeah yeah it’s Spider-Ham, whatever).
Needless to say, after all these things I’m excited for, my expectations were low, and not even the classic theme from John Williams couldn’t excite me.
But then the movie started.
And that first scene played.
And that little Potter nerd inside me felt alive again, just a little bit.
So here’s my take on it.
Now here’s where I’m going to get into my rubric. It’s pretty similar to my rubric for comics with only a couple of differences to specifically address the medium. And in case you didn’t know, I will also be posting a summary of the grade, with a percentage, at the end (so, skip there if you don’t want spoilers but want to see the review)!
- Is it realistic? Does it work? Does it flow? Is it consistent to the character speaking? Does it serve a purpose beyond just exposition?
- Does the story move in an interesting direction? Does it maintain its momentum?
- Does it make sense? Is it easy to follow the sequence of events? If there is no narrative, does the game’s basic sequence make sense?
- If there’s a point, is it made and is it made well?
- Is the music something I’d want to hear again?
- Does it suit the work? Enhance the experience? Or is it inappropriate and distracting?
- Does the actor succeed in making the character feel like a person?
- Does the actor succeed in making the character sympathetic and likeable? Or does the character succeed in making you hate them?
- Does the overall performance achieve what was intended?
- Special effects
- Are they well done? Do they fit the movie? Do they distract from the film?
- Does it help to enhance the storytelling? Is it interesting to look at? Does it make you experience the events instead of just watching them?
- Do they fit the film? Do they look good? Do the costumes suit the characters wearing them?
- Set design
- Do the sets fit the film? If it’s a period piece, are they accurate? Are they well-balanced and pleasing to look at?
With these things in mind, I will discuss this film and give it it’s final grade at the end. You all already know this, or should at least if you’ve been paying attention. Now, on to the review.
[SPOILERS AND SOME SLIGHT SWEARING AHEAD: You have been warned]
So the opening scene was basically just Grindelwald’s prison break from the American Ministry of Magic, and GODDAMN! THAT IS HOW YOU OPEN A MOVIE, LADS. It was suspenseful, fast-paced, dark and violent. And you know my favourite thing about it? It established how dangerous Grindelwald is THROUGH ACTIONS, NOT WORDS. They actually showed instead of telling and THANK YOU. So many movies and comics I’ve been exposed to recently just CANNOT get this right. Instead of telling me about the horrible, dark shit the villain is doing and SHOW me how much of a badass killer he is. And they go for it. He’s flinging around spells you’ve never seen before. He disintegrates his opponent’s wands, he drowns them in the carriage that was supposed to be transporting him back to Europe, he summons lightning to hit the broom-riders escorting and guarding the carriage. It’s AWESOME.
And, unfortunately this is the highlight of the movie. It’s a fantastic highlight, don’t get me wrong, but it’s the peak of action, suspense and intrigue. But I assumed that, and since my expectations were already low and I recognized that it would be very hard to live up to the awesome of that opening scene, I was prepared for the rest of the movie to disappoint me. I was expecting it to, so I was delightfully surprised when it didn’t. It didn’t disappoint, it didn’t meet my low expectations. It actually managed to surprise me a couple times.
After this first opening sequence, the rest of the film takes a lull. We find out that Newt, after his adventures in New York, got into serious trouble and is now unable to travel outside Great Britain, much to his chagrin. We meet a new character, Leta, and immediately thanks to some decent dialogue and interesting camerawork that Newt is, or was, crushing on her and that she is in love with him. However, Leta is now engaged to Newt’s brother Theseus (dun dun duuun), who is actively trying to help his brother be a productive member of the wizarding society and get his travel ban lifted.
Unfortunately, during the hearing to have Newt’s travel ban lifted, he’s told that it’s conditional on him becoming an auror and working for his brother. Then this slimy git walks in and he’s one of the most fabulous things in the whole fucking movie. He just peeks around a wall and immediately the “I’m a piece of shit and an antagonist” stench is wafting off the oil dripping from his cat-like grin. And I literally turned to Pinkie and said, “Oh you right bastard” in a heavily affected Scottish accent, which made him laugh at least. And, while this guy (who’s name is apparently Grimmson, because honestly he has such a small roll in this despite the delicious overacting, I couldn’t remember his name at all), is fun an all, Newt clearly doesn’t like him and fucks off.
Theseus chases him and gives him a hug, which Newt doesn’t like (poor little guy, he doesn’t like the touching!), and tells him that eventually he’s going to have to pick a side in the fight with Grindelwald.
Now at this point the order of the plot points is going to get hazy, because it’s been a day since seeing it at the point I’m writing this and I can’t remember EVERYTHING perfectly, but I’m going to skip on over to what our main man Grindy is up to.
Turns out, after his epic escape, Grindelwald made his way to Paris and picked up some of his Deatheaters along the way. Yes I know they’re not Deatheaters, but they might as well be.
Then, to mirror Harry Potter even further, they raid this random French family’s house, kill the mom and dad to take over the place, then find a little boy upstairs. Poor kid never stood a chance, and Grindelwald leaves a lacky to do the kid in, establishing Grindelwald as a much scarier villain than Lord Voldemort because 1. He doesn’t use a childhood nickname to sound menacing and 2. He was able to kill a kid successfully. 10 points to Grindelwald.
The reason Grindy is in Paris is to look for Credence, the kid with the spooky explody powers from the first movie who looked like he died but apparently didn’t. Anyway, knowing this the race is on between the two sides, because as Grindy was making himself comfortable in Paris, Dumbledore was visiting with his favourite little ginger to ask him a favour: ignore the Ministry of Magic and go to Paris to find Credence. There’s some generic prophesy babble, and the hero rejects the call before ultimately taking his wise mentor up on it and heading off to Paris.
We get to see Newt’s fantastic beasts again and meet a new character who means nothing to the plot, she’s just kind of cute and crushes on Newt for some slight comic relief (I guess?) and then disappears, and we’re also reintroduced to some familiar faces: Jacob and Queenie from the previous film.
So, something interesting has happened with Queenie and Jacob. You know how Queenie was always a little off? Well in this movie she’s completely insane and basically used magic to roofie Jacob so that they could elope in Europe and get married because America is still racist against the Nomaj. Newt catches on to this and lifts the spell, then Jacob and Queenie get into a fight because…woman you roofied him. And then Queenie gets angry because she reads Jacob’s mind and hears her calling her crazy…cos she kinda is… and poofs to Paris to find Tina, who’s on a mission to find Credence as well.
Jacob and Newt decide to go to Paris, both to get their girls back (Jacob, I guess, thinks he can’t do any better, and Newt needs to clear up a mistake some wizard tabloid made claiming he was marrying Leta which has pissed off Tina and thrust her into the arms of another man we never get to see).
Using a Portkey, the boys fly off to Paris.
Act 2, Part 1
Meanwhile, Tina infiltrates The Circus, something Grindelwald name dropped earlier as a likely location for Credence’s hidey-hole, and here is where we meet Nagini. You know, Voldemort’s snake? Except she’s not a snake.
Now this was spoiled for me by J.K. Rowling herself on twitter and Potterheads have been complaining for months now: Nagini is actually a Korean woman cursed to eventually become a snake because she’s a Maledictus. People were pissed because it reads as a TEENSY EENTSY ITTLE WITTLE bit…ah, well…racist. I mean, an Asian woman who becomes a white man’s decorative little buddy? It’s…I mean it’s weird. Whether you think it’s racist or not, the decision to retcon Nagini into a Korean lady is weird. Especially when you remember Voldemort liked drinking her milk… I guess instead of a weird quirk because he’s a snakey guy, it’s a fetish now? I…I don’t know. I don’t want to think about it.
We meet Nagini, who’s I guess in love with Credence, and is paraded around in a freak show. When she turns into a snake for the crowd, she attacks her master and Credence sets free some weird little flying fire lizard things so they could escape. Credence also sets free this giant kitty called the zouwu, a creature from Chinese mythology, and it’s my favourite thing in the movie next to the opening scene. It’s perfect and I want one.
Tina witnesses all this, then runs into this shady looking Senegalese man who claims to also be searching for Credence because they are distantly related. Tina and the man, Yusef Kama, decide to help each other look for the kid.
Back to Newt and Jacob, they arrive in Paris, and thanks to a postcard Queenie left behind at Newt’s place by accident, they find the Circus (or at least where it used to be) and start investigating to find Tina. Using some hocus pocus, and bringing back the adorable little Niffler to help out, they figure out where Yusef is and go track him down.
When they get to Yusef, he says he’ll help them out and takes them to Tina…who he’s locked in a sewer. And then he locks Jacob and Newt in the sewer. And then Yusef passes out because of a weird tentacle parasite in his eye. And then Pick, the little stick thing from the last movie, picks the lock and frees them immediately. Then they take Yusef and go hide at the house of a friend of Dumbledore’s (turns out it’s Nicholas Flamel who looks exactly as old as he is).
Did that feel needless and kind of just like…a jumble of stuff happening? Well don’t worry about it because all you need to know is that Tina and Yusef have joined the party and Nicholas Flamel is there.
Queenie, meanwhile, has been looking for Tina. She goes to the French Ministry of Magic and asks to see her, assuming Tina’s mission is official and on-the-record. Turns out it’s not and the receptionist turns her away. Queenie then has a bit of a panic attack and is picked up by Grindelwald’s scary French beard…I mean lady friend, who takes her back to the house their little group jacked, and introduces Queenie to Grindelwald.
Queenie, of course, freaks out, but Grindelwald is a sly and cunning bastard and knows how to talk. And talk, and talk. But he’s really good at it. And he tells Queenie that he doesn’t ACTUALLY want to kill all the Muggles (nah, he just wants to kill most of them and enslave the rest…but who’s counting?) and actually wants to help her. For some reason, and I don’t know if Grindelwald has some kind of magic that lets him, like, see into people’s souls or whatever, but he seems to know who she is and that she wants to marry Jacob. Whatever, the seed has been planted in Queenie’s mind that Grindelwald can help her get her little Jacob babies and she’s down with that. I mean not yet, but she’s getting there. Seduction of the innocent and all that.
Meanwhile, back in England, Dumbledore’s in trouble with the MoM and gets magic shackles placed on him to keep him from helping Newt. Also McGonagall is there even though she’s supposed to be -8 years old, but you see in myhead canon that’s actually OUR Prof. McGonagall’s mother and I didn’t check the credits or Pottermore or Potterwiki or Rowling’s twitter to tell me otherwise so that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Also Dumbledore warns Theseus not to go into any rally Grindelwald holds, even to arrest him, because he doesn’t want him to die. And then we get a flashback from Leta’s perspective and we find out she’s a Lestrange (as in Bellatrix) and that she and Newt were friends. We also find out that Leta’s bogart is of a strange watery white cloth (we’ll come back to this later), and that Newt’s bogart was of a desk because he’s terrified of an office job and that’s bloody adorable.
Dumbledore finds Leta reminiscing in the Transfiguration classroom we all know so well, and she asks him if she was really a bad student. You get the feeling immediately that something is seriously wrong and that Leta, despite her usual Slytherin-like cool outer appearance, she’s actually quite torn up and tortured by…something. Dumbledore tells Leta that whatever she’s feeling about her dead brother (hint number one to what’s up with Leta Lestrange), he understands because he had a sister (we all know this already) and that she shouldn’t let regret bog her down like he’s allowed it to do himself. It’s a nice scene and Jude Law gets to act his lil butt off and it’s good.
I might add at this point that, back when Dumbledore was getting magically cuffed, the head auror or whoever it was the cuffed him, asked him why he doesn’t actively fight Grindelwald. I mean, it should bother him that he’s a monster, right? You guys were like brothers, he says. And Albus Dumbledore gets this sad look on his face, and he looks down, and he says no, we were closer than brothers. And my attention was piqued. Because, if any of you remember, fans of HP were told that this movie wasn’t going to go into Dumbledore’s relationship with Grindelwald, or address the fact that Dumbledore was gay. But this was a noticeably gay thing to say. So I shelved it and held on to it because I thought, “Alright…let’s see if they do something with this”.
Then we see Dumbledore head to the Mirror of Erised. And in the mirror we see a young Dumbly with a young Grindy. And they do a weird blood pact thing. And they’re super close to one another. And to do the weird blood pact thing they hold hands. And I mean really hold hands. And it’s really gay. And I was really happy because I went into the movie thinking they were going to completely retcon the whole “Dumbledore is gay” thing so as not to offend the kiddies seeing the movie. But this was actually really nice. It was kind of the perfect amount of “They really loved…and still love each other”, and I thought it was good. So thank you movie.
Don’t worry, we’ll come back to this later.
Act 2, Part 2
After all this stuff in England, we shoot back over to France and see Credence and Nagini searching Paris for someone who knows who he is. They’ve discovered who they think is his birth mother because her name is on his adoption papers and talk to her. Turns out she’s a half elf servant to a great family who was given the task of taking him to America for safety. Before the old lady could tell him more, however, Grimmson comes back and kills her. Turns out the slimy git has been working for Grindelwald the entire time! And he goes to meet Grindy to tell him he killed to old woman so Credence would be forced to come to Grindelwald for answers. Then we never see Grimmson again and it’s a damn shame.
Next we see that Jacob has been left behind with the knocked out Yusef, after Newt extracts this gross parasite from his eye, and Tina and Newt head to the French MoM to get something of Leta’s because something Yusef said made them link Credence to Leta or something. Doesn’t really matter, I guess.
So, Newt takes some Polyjuice potion to look like Theseus who, dun dun duun, is in the French MoM and sees his brother faking to be him and a small chase ensues where Theseus attacks Newt and Tina and the two block it and Tina sends Theseus sprawling, and Newt geekily proclaims that that was the greatest thing he’s seen in his life.
They get to the records room and this creepy French lady lets them in and Newt and Tina finally get to clear the air around his alleged engagement and Newt finally gets to tell Tina that she has salamander eyes and she likes it. They’re adorably weird together. Actually, I’m wrong, Newt doesn’ttell her that because Jacob told him not to, but Tina knows him so well that she guesses salamander when he starts describing what he likes about her eyes and he gets this look on his face like “I need to marry her” and its precious.
Then Leta shows up and requests the records Newt and Tina were after, and Leta discovers them there and that the records are gone, then the creepy French lady sics some cat familiars that protect the MoM from intruders on them and there’s this cool chase scene where Newt gets to pull out the zouwu kitty that he trapped earlier using a jingly cat toy and made friends with (I didn’t mention it earlier cos it doesn’t really matter until now) and rides it out of the MoM and to freedom and it’s cool.
Back in Nicholas Flamel’s house, Jacob and Nick check out this crystal ball that tells them where Grindelwald is headed and Jacob sees Queenie wandering about in the area. Turns out, that while Jacob was inside, Grindelwald called his followers. And it’s really cool. Voldemort had his Dark Mark, but Gindelwald has giant black curtains that just flow over the city with the marker for their meeting place, and it’s goddamn cinematic and cool. It’s like something out of Dark Souls and I love it. Anyway, Queenie saw the summons and decided to check it out, and now that Jacob knows where she is, he’s made the decision to go after her. Also Yusef sneaks out in the meantime. When Jacob leaves, Nicholas grabs a book and talks to some random fantastically dressed black woman from a picture who tells him to get his ass out there and fight or a lot of people are going to die. Sure.
Everyone’s now converging on this cemetery where Grindelwald is holding his rally. Grindelwald has found Credence and Nagini and told them where to go, Tina and Newt and Leta and Queenie found the summons, and Jacob and Yusef got the info from the crystal ball and Nick.
Leta, Tina and Newt get to the cemetery and find Jacob, Credence and Nagini all at wand point by Yusef. Then Yusef tells his story and why he wanted to find Credence. Turns out Yusef and Leta share a mother. Leta’s father, Bastard Lestrange, used the Imperius curse to kidnap Yusef’s mother and force her to marry him. She died in childbirth, and Yusef made an Unbreakable Vow with his father to find and destroy the thing that made Lestrange happiest. Turns out that wasn’t Leta, it was his second child with the random white woman he married after Yusef and Leta’s mom: a little boy named Corvus. Lestrange found out about Yusef and his father’s desire to kill baby Corvus, so sent him to America to be raised, and therefore Credence is Corvus and Yusef has to kill him.
BUT PLOT TWIST.
Leta screams out that Corvus is dead, and explains that Leta was also sent to America with baby Corvus. Baby Corvus wouldn’t stop crying and I guess the little half elf nanny was kind of shit at her job and left Leta to deal with a crying baby. The ship they were on begins to sink and everyone needs to evacuate, and Leta decides to swap babies because there’s another baby boy nearby who isn’t screaming his little head off, and she was like six or seven years old. So she grabs the quiet baby while leaving baby Corvus behind, who’s picked up by the other baby’s mom or caretaker, and both babies end up of different boats. And the boat with baby Corvus on it capsizes and Corvus dies (turns out that floaty, white cloth that was Leta’s bogart was the drowned corpse of her baby brother whom she accidentally got killed and subsequently never forgave herself for). Newt tells her not to beat herself up because it’s not like she did it on purpose, and Yusef realizes that his Unbreakable Vow is null and void and he’s off the hook. Credence also finds out he still has no idea who he is.
Suddenly, they all end up getting dragged into Grindelwald’s rally, and Jacob runs to Queenie who’s there and she tells Jacob that she wants to stay just to see what he has to say. Everyone else is low-key freaking out, and then Theseus and the British aurors all arrive and you know it’s going to be bad news bears.
Grindelwald starts talking to his crowd, and makes all this convincing rhetoric that’s actually pretty intimidating (the score for this scene is fantastic too, btw), and you get the feeling that Leta and Queenie are kind of falling for it. Then Grindelwald’s beard…I mean lady friend, reappears with this weird glowing skulls hookah that Grindy uses to poof smoke that predicts World War II as an excuse to go to war with the humans because A-bombs are horrifying and what happens when they come for us?
Then Grindelwald calls attention to the fact that there are aurors there and makes a point to tell his followers not to take any action against them, “Because we’re better than them”. And this girl, who you get the feeling must have had a loved one killed by an auror, moves to take one out and the auror she’s glaring at hits her with an Avdea Kadavra. The crowd gasps and Grindelwald makes a show of going to her body and closing her eyes and being all like, “Damn these violent bastards, this is just a peaceful gathering!”, and uses this as fuel to get more wizards on his side, and tells everyone to leave and tell of how violent and horrible the government is. Then he lights the centre of the gathering space on blue-fire and encourages those left to join him or die to the blue flame. Some aurors try running and the blue flame hunts them down and kills them. Some try aparating away and the same shit happens. So we’re left with our main characters now, basically, who are all faced with the conundrum.
Queenie asks Jacob to go with her, because she now thinks the Grindewald can help them and their relationship. Jacob says no and calls her crazy to her face this time and Queenie leaves him and goes to Grindelwald. Then Credence goes, leaving Nagini behind. And then Leta goes. Grindelwald, recognizing her as a Lestrange, leaves his little flame circle and goes to take her hand. She takes it…for about half a second and attacks him. Her attack either disrupts his control of the flame or makes him lose concentration on the spell and the fire goes out of control, killing Leta, but allowing everyone else to escape. Grindelwald poofs, and everyone else runs for cover.
Then the fire turns into three giant demon dragon things, and whatever the spell was goes completely out of control. Nicholas Flamel shows up and says if they don’t stop the spell here and now, all of Paris will go up in flames. So the wizards all cast this impressive shield spell that traps the dragons and blows up the cemetery. Then Newt and Theseus have a sweet moment in their mourning and Newt hugs Theseus.
Everyone returns to Hogwarts where they meet Dumbledore. Theseus gets rid of the magic cuffs and Newt fills Dumbledore in on what happened. He also gives Dumbledore this little silver bauble that Grindelwald had on him at all times throughout the movie – a bauble that was stolen by everyone’s favourite little Niffler buddy as Grindelwald was waxing poetic over the corpse of the dead racist from his rally. We find out that this little bauble contains the blood pact we saw from Dumbledore’s visit to the Mirror of Erised and Newt asks if Dumbledore can destroy it. Turns out the blood pact was a promise never to fight each other. We’ll bring this back later. Dumbledore says he might be able to and we cut over to Grindelwald who’s back in his castle in Austria. Queenie is now a confidante and tells Grindy to be gentle with the kid. Grindewald finally tells Credence who he is, and gift him with a new pet: a phoenix. Turns out Credence Barebone is really Aurelius Dumbledore. Then Grindelwald gifts him a wand and Aurelius blows up the side of a mountain with it.
SO, when I left the theatre I found myself delighted. Pinkie was less than enthused, though he admitted to me that he didn’t care much for the first film to start and this one failed to win his attention either. He also admitted he was really tired and so only kind of half-paid-attention.
I, on the other hand, considering my expectations were so low, was pretty happy. Does the film have issues? Of course. Actually, in writing the plot synopsis I realized more of the issues than upon first watching the film. It’s one of those things that, in the moment, feels okay because the movie is quite the spectacle and if you let it carry you back to the world of Harry Potter and just experience it at face value, it’s fine. Upon reflection…ehh, it needed one or two more edits.
All in all, though, pree gud.
Plot is fine. Perfectly serviceable. It’s easy enough to follow for the most part, but it bothers me that Grimmson was just totally dropped after three scenes. I don’t know if this character was always meantto be just a small villain or if in the original cut of the movie he was supposed to have a bigger part, but the actor certainly hams it up like he’s going to have some big standoff with Newt at the end. Maybe he comes back in the next movie, but in this one he seemed like a waste of screen time. He serves nothing to the plot that another one of Grindy’s henchmen couldn’t have equally fulfilled.
The dialogue is good. Grindelwald is written perfectly, in my opinion. His dialogue – acting aside – is oozing with honey, and I think it’s perfect. Dumbledore sounds like Dumbledore, still as secretive and manipulative as ever. Newt is loveably awkward. It’s all good. I also appreciated that there aren’t really too many points where dialogue is used just to explain things. There’s Leta and Yusef’s story about Corvus Lestrange, but thanks to the cutaway to flashbacks and the performance of the actors, it doesn’t feel like an exposition dump.
When it comes to brevity, I feel like things could definitely have been cut. Nagini for instance. Total waste of screen time. She says like three lines in the movie, then cries when Credence leaves her for Grindelwald. Any people accusing Rowling of being a little racist because it felt like she was writing a Korean woman as a prop…well, they’re not being proven wrong by her inclusion in this film. It felt like they had her there to give Credence a girlfriend and to put a very pretty Asian actress in a skimpy dress. Not so good.
Also, I’ve realized there’s a continuity issue surrounding the bauble that holds the blood pact between Dumbly and Grindy. The whole fight between them that got Ariana Dumbledore killed had to have happened beforethis blood pact was implemented, right? Because the pact is to make it so they can never fight each other. But, if the pact was implemented after their big fight…well they broke up after that fight and wouldn’t have anything to do with each other until Dumbledore helped to defeat him. So then the pact was made beforethe fight that killed Ariana…but then they wouldn’t have been able to fight each other…unless the fight that killed Ariana is now being retconned so that it was them breaking their blood pact that caused some reaction that killed Albus’ sister instead of a stray spell…and if that’s the case then that’s kind of dumb. I don’t know, I guess we’ll see in the next movie how that’s handled.
Another continuity thing: I know I’m not the biggest Potterhead out there but I thought part of the reason Dumbledore was known as one of the greatest wizards of all time was because of his role in defeating Grindelwald? But in this movie all the aurors are kind of afraid of him when they bust into his classroom to deal with him sending Newt to do his dirty work for him. There’s even a point when someone says Dumbledore is one of the greatest wizards ever. But I’m not sure why? Small point, but still a little annoying.
Something I really liked about the movie, though, was how they handled the love between Grindelwald and Dumbledore. I know I mentioned it before, but seriously the way it was being framed online was that the whole “Dumbledore is gay” thing was just being completely written off, and that’s just not true. I’m not sure why the director said that. Did he think, “Oh well we didn’t address it because we don’t see them make out in it” or something? Because you don’t need two men macking to show that they have (or had) a very close and loving relationship. I mean, I thought the way they portrayed it was perfect.
I’m sure there are those out there who wanted to see more, but I think Dumbledore’s shame and unwillingness to come out is not only in character, considering what happened between the two, but we have to remember that this is all taking place in the 1920s and, on top of that, the Wizarding World has always been a few decades behind the human world. I mean, this movie has a freak show in it! Freak shows were banned by the early 1900s for being inhumane and gross! And here we have one in the middle of Paris in 1923! Clearly wizards just aren’t as into human rights as they ought to be. So, it doesn’t surprise me that Dumbledore hints at their closeness by saying, “We were closer than brothers”, it doesn’t surprise me that he doesn’t just come out with a rainbow flag and start telling everyone around him that it’s okay to be gay, let’s rejoice with the boys in the gay way! It would have felt forced and off-putting and like they were trying to pander. And you don’t want to pander. You want representation to feel natural, not like Hollywood is just trying to tick a box to keep the minorities in check.
That being said, it also feels like they’ve bought themselves some time. The writers and filmmakers are clearly nudging us towards “Dumbledore and Grindelwald were TOTALLY a thing”, but in this movie in particular they never share any screen time. They can get away with the whole not-having-to-actually-say-it thing fine in this movie, but the next one?… We’ll have to see just how progressive they really want to be when they have to actually deal with these characters interacting with one another.
Until then, we can hope they’ll do the right thing.
Also, can I just say thank you to the writers for not picking the most obvious and clichéd twist for Credence’s backstory. I mean, I realize suddenly conjuring up a new Dumbledore is a little dumb, but considering I spent most of the movie going, “It’s going to be Tom Riddle Sr. It’s going to be Tom Riddle Sr. It’s going to be Tom Riddle Sr.”, I’d just like to say thank you. Aurelius Dumbledore was an actual surprise, you managed to actually trick me and give me a “Ohhhhh daaaayum” moment in the theatre, and good on you. Seriously, the way they were playing up the mystery of Credence’s identity and the fact that Ezra Miller bares a striking resemblance to the guy who played Tom Riddle in Chamber of Secrets, and the fact that this movie kept bringing in characters and character names us Potter fans would recognize (McGonagall, Lestrange), I was just waiting for the film to disappoint me and tie in Voldemort somehow. And they didn’t. Have a…well have nothing because you don’t really deserve a reward for just not doing something really stupid, but thanks anyway.
All in all, I think the script could have used another edit or two to tighten up some plot points, maybe rework or get rid of some characters (there are an awful lot in this movie), and clarify a couple of scenes (I mean, in writing the synopsis there’s some stuff where I don’t remember why characters are doing things, and that’s not a good – it’s not distracting while you’re watching it, but certainly weird upon reflection). Still, nice and satisfyingly average.
- Dialogue – -A
- Development – B
- Coherence – B
- Conciseness – -B
It’s pretty good.
Other than the Harry Potter theme there wasn’t anything too toe-tappingly memorable. However, the scene with Grindelwald’s rally has perfectmusic. It’s off-putting in the best of ways. It just makes you feel how uncomfortable it is in the room for our heroes, and you can feel the build up of his appearance and how much power he holds over the people in the room.
There’s not much more to say about it. Probably won’t buy the soundtrack, myself, but it did it’s job well enough.
- Memorability – -B
- Tone – A
Like the music, it’s pretty good.
Eddie Redmayne is a treasure and plays Newt so well. He’s adorable, he’s sweet, and he’s consistent. Jude Law is a great Dumbledore and Zoë Kravitz does a wonderful job as Leta Lestrange. She actually managed to make me care about her and her guilt over the death of Corvus. Alison Sudol is another good performance. I really liked Queenie in the last movie, and despite going off the rails in this film, I still really like her. You can tell she’s joining Grindelwald out of a misplaced sense of trust because she’s blinded by her innocence and love for Jacob, and even though she’s a psycho who roofied her boyfriend to get her to marry him, I still kind of feel sorry for her. I mean, don’t get me wrong, she’s nuts and I don’t condone or forgive her actions, but they’re understandable and she does a great job at making you feel sorry for her crazy ass.
Of course the best actor in the whole movie is Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson as Grimmson. I am definitely not being facetious here. Totally not… He’s definitely the best thing in the movie and not a painfully fabulous over actor and I’m totally not being hyperbolic.
Seriously though, he had fun in the role. It wasn’t much of a roll, but he had fun with the role.
As for everyone else, it was okay. Katherine Waterson reprising as Tina was good. She and Eddie Redmayne have good on-screen chemistry and seeing Tina and Newt interact and finally admit their attraction to one another in their own weird, awkward way was cute. Waterson isn’t really given much to do in this movie, though, which is a shame. William Nadylam’s Yusef Kama was fine. I feel like he didn’t really add much to the film other than another character to throw people off on the final reveal of who Credence actually was, but he did fine. Claudia Kim as Nagini was useless. Not the actress’ fault, I know. She just wasn’t given anything to do other than cry and look pretty, and she did that just fine. Ezra Miller didn’t really add anything to the role of Credence/Aurelius. Honestly I found him more interesting in the last movie. Callum Turner as Theseus Scamander was also fine. He was a little wooden and couldn’t even bring himself to properly cry or look all that distressed after Leta died…his fiancée…which kind of took me out of the moment, but in the rest of the movie he did well enough.
The only one I was really disappointed by was Dan Fogler as Jacob. I loved Jacob in the last movie. He was funny, cute, and a little weird. I liked that. And I don’t know if he just forgot what kind of accent he was supposed to be doing or what kind of voice he did in the last movie or what, but he sounded off in this one. Now it’s been like a year and a bit since watching Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, but I know what Dan Fogler sounds like. It was almost like he was told to play up the Brooklyn accent more and force his voice to be deeper. He didn’t really sound like a person and more like he was putting on a really cartoony voice, and it kind of took me out of the really emotional scenes between Jacob and Queenie. Those scenes, though, it was like he forgot he had to do a silly affected voice and he sounded like he did in the last movie again, so that was ok, but then it made it really obvious the rest of the time when he was putting it on. I don’t know, it was weird.
Now, I’m afraid I’m going to have to talk about Johnny Depp as Grindelwald. His personal life aside, he played a great Grindelwald. He was a good villain, and considering what we now know about him, maybe he was just playing himself. Charming, smooth-talking and cool on the outside, total piece of shit on the inside and in action. I mean, you gotta give him this: it is really easy to hate him in this movie, and in part that is because it is his performance. Should the filmmakers have bitten the bullet, so to speak, and recast and reshot the film? Morally speaking: probably. And for whatever reason, they didn’t. Unfortunately, if you want to see this film, you have to take it or leave it, and making the decision not to support the movie because of this careless casting is entirely understandable. It makes it uncomfortable for me to review, because…like… he’s a horrible person, but objectively that doesn’t affect his performance. So… I dunno. You get a no mark for him.
Everyone else was fine, though.
- Realistic – +B
- Emotional – +B
- Effective – -B
This is a big one. The visuals are stunning in this movie. If you’re going to see this movie, just think of it as a spectacle. The story is fine, music is fine, acting is fine, but the visuals – THAT is the movie’s strong point.
The opening scene alone should convince you that the effects are good, but then you get into the fantastic beasts and I LOVE how they’re animated. Especially zouwu kitty. It moves like a paper Chinese dragon and a wild cat combined and it’s spectacular. It makes it feel like both a real animal as well as something totally mythical and fantastic. The kelpie was pretty cool too, and I loved how seaweedy it was. The nifflers (because there are many in this one) are adorable, as always, and so is Pickett.
The spells all look good, the final fight with the weird blue demon dragons was good, and Grindelwald’s summoning curtains were so goddamn cool. I realise the term “summoning curtains” sounds painfully lame, but I swear it looks amazing. It’s haunting, it’s creepy, it’s intimidating – it’s honestly better than the Dark Mark. It feels oppressive and ominous in a way a giant green skull firework just isn’t. I said earlier it feels like something out of Dark Souls, and the way the fabric moves along the buildings in Paris and then just float up into the sky kind of reminds me of the way the Dancer of the Boreal Valley moves in Dark Souls III, and I personally love her design. She’s probably one of my favourite bosses in the whole series.
I can’t think of any moments in the film where the effects distracted me from what was going on. They always felt like nice little garnishes on top of an already decent film. They never took me out of the scene, there was no point where I felt like the rushed it or didn’t finish something, and it all felt very much real and present in the moment.
The camerawork was also really well done. It didn’t feel like the director was just sleepwalking through the film, and there was a distinct lack of lazy “shot-reverse shot” sequences, which was nice. It kept the overall flow of the film pretty organic and interesting looking. There were also some shots that felt pretty artsy (as artsy as a mainstream film is going to get, anyway). For example, to show how much Newt and Leta really loved each other, whenever they’re on screen alone together, they cut to this very intimate shot where you see the characters from a first-person perspective. At first it’s a little jarring, but then you realise the purpose behind the shot and I think it’s pretty clever. It shows the audience, instead of telling us, that these characters have a very close relationship and that, when they’re around each other, nothing else seems to really matter. Their focus is on the other person, completely. It also gives Eddie and Zoë a real chance to act for the audience, and they work those close-ups very well.
Costumes were good. It felt like Harry Potter, and I know people have kind of made fun of Dumbledore wearing a 3-piece suit instead of elegant robes, but Jude Law looks dapper as hell so I’m not going to complain. It also makes it feel like he really is younger and like, as he grew older, he became more extravagant and eccentric, which feels very Albus Dumbledore indeed.
The sets are also pretty cool. The amphitheatre for the confrontation with Grindelwald was very interesting, the different Ministries of Magic were cool, and Newt’s suitcase was a treat to look at.
Visually, I think it’s safe to say this is one of the best I’ve seen this year.
- Special effects – +A
- Camerawork – A
- Costumes – -A
- Set design – A
When all’s said and done, this movie is fun. I didn’t mean to rhyme that, but oh well.
Seriously, though, it’s a good sit. Even after being so cranky about it when we first left the theatre, Pinkie actually wants to see it again, and I have no problem with that.
For anyone who isn’t a fan of Harry Potter or of the first Fantastic Beasts movie, you’re not going to like this. If for some reason you thought this movie would convince you to check out this series, you’re going to be disappointed. It doesn’t bring anything to the table that will convince you to love, or even necessarily like, the Wizarding World. Don’t waste your money.
For die-hard fans, you’ll probably enjoy it. For anyone who obsesses over lore and the history of these characters, you’ll probably be annoyed. And for anyone who was looking forward to seeing Jude Law and Johnny Depp make out on the big screen, then I’m sorry you’ll be sorely disappointed. Maybe in the next one. Otherwise, I’d say it’s worth it to see it in the theatre, and if you decide to pass, definitely check it out on Netflix or nab it when it’s on DVD.
For the casual fan, like myself, and for people who like movies where you can just turn your brain off for 90-120 minutes, you’ll like this just fine. It’s a visual experience that I think is worth catching on the big screen, and it’s a good time for anyone who grew up waiting for their letter to Hogwarts like myself. I knew it was a long shot, being from Canada and all, but maybe since we’re part of the Commonwealth it would still count. I’m still waiting on that owl, by the way.
FINAL GRADE: +B
Next time you see me I probably won’t be in such a good mood, and I’ll probably be swearing a lot… Dark Nights: Metal Issue #2, here I come…
- Fantastic visual experience
- Main cast is likeable
- Overall fun experience
- Some plot threads and characters dropped
- Some confusing/unnecessary scenes
- Probably needed one or two more edits