I feel like a guilty Gryffindor, A Harry Potter heel, and a bad geek, because I have such confused thoughts about Fantastic Beasts: the Crimes of Grindelwald. I’m supposed to love it: I’m a crazy fan for everything Harry Potter. I even came around on the first Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them — which I had mixed feelings about originally . So, surely it will be the same for me on Crimes of Grindelwald, right? Right??
Truth be told, while my immediate review/reaction was less than stellar, I liked it a WHOLE lot more on my 2nd and 3rd viewings. I considered changing my review, and even bumped it up a few grades. But I still couldn’t shake the feeling there was a lot inherently wrong with CoG. It reminded me, unfortunately, of my experience viewing Star Wars: The Last Jedi, another very pretty but deeply flawed movie. Yikes.
So I sat on it and let things digest in my brain, avoiding other people’s reviews. Until last night. That’s when I took to You Tube to see if my perspective was just dead wrong. WARNING: SPOILERS FOLLOW for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.
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Turns out: no. I mean, I’m right. The other Potterheads are just as confused and butt-hurt too. Attached are some of the best video breakdowns of why CoG failed, based on impossible inconsistencies within JK Rowling’s OWN canon, in small part — and in just weird cinematic storytelling, in large part.
To wit: who ARE all these characters? Why should we care about the endless in-depth backstories and reveals of folks we’ve never met, some of which die right there in the same film? In Avengers: Infinity War, by comparison, it took 18 films to earn their immense casting roundup. In-Universe, The climactic Battle of Hogwarts was full of characters we knew and loved — absolutely LOVED, and died, and #YesDamnYouJK for breaking my heart there.
It doesn’t help that CoG undid the main emotional beats of the previous film in the second (also recalling The Last Jedi. #WTG).
As for the eponymous Grindelwald, we don’t get to see a lot of actual crimes. He orders the killing of one family (and their toddler child, which, yes, bad)…and, um, boots his faithful lizard to its death out the prison carriage for the ‘crime’ of being affectionate…and, hmm. Escapes from prison, sort of, though it seems he maybe wasn’t in it…? The whole breakout scene was unclear. He bothers to save the life of one of his jailers, which I found a nice enough gesture. He also holds a rally protesting the Holocaust. This is the most evil wizard of his generation, the Big Bad before Voldemort?
While Johnny Depp was never my first choice to play Grindelwald, he wasn’t awful in the part. I think the main flaws in CoG, which are legion, is that half the film was devoted to useless flashbacks and — let’s face it — underwhelming and/or incredibly contrived reveals. Who is Corvus? (I’ll do you one better: WHY is Corvus?) What is the incredibly tangled Lestrange family tree about and why should we care? Who is Tentacle Guy — do you remember he was in this film and what his purpose was?
Then there’s this: Credence is a Dumbledore? How does this in any way make sense? It’s like everyone is a Skywalker, all over again.
Even Queenie and Jacob, so reliable in the first Fantastic Beasts, were poorly used here. I see what Rowling was after with Queenie’s arc, but the logic doesn’t stick. You’ll see what I mean in the videos.
Where the film DID shine was three-fold: I continue to love and admire Newt, the fantastic beasts themselves were still a joyous addition to the lore, and Jude Law’s Dumbledore was note-perfect. And I love being among wizards again, especially at Hogwarts, albeit briefly. (Also, Tina’s eyes are like a salamander’s, which is a little bit true, and very cute, and if you think about Newt Scamander’s whole name, it’s essentially “Salamander Salamander”, so Awwwww.)
With no further opinionated grumblings from me, here are the best five reviewer videos breaking down and backing up my fretful thoughts on Fantastic Beasts 2: (PS: start with the excellent SuperCarlin Brothers, and work your way down. All these videos will take a while to view, and I put them in order of insightfulness in my ranking scale. Your mileage may vary.)
What did you think of this second-of-five installment of Fantastic Beasts? We’ve got a comments section below: please use it.
Lastly, if you’re still reading, here are our RunPee reviews on the two films thus far:
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Right in the same camp. It was so pretty but so poorly told IMO. The editing was probably the biggest offender, so many scenes would end abruptly and the next scene would be low on context (just one example was where they hear the noises on the street from the sewers and then suddenly Newt is in the middle of battling the giant kitty dragon thing. Let a moment land and the next one ramp up please).
The use of Queenie felt far too radical for the limited amount of explanation they gave. We got to see her have one little argument and that’s enough to practically send her off on a tragedy. She may not have been a strong character previously (however lovable) but she was just kinda used up as a plot token this time without much regard for her good qualities shown in the last one.
Newt is perfect. There was a fantastic video by Pop Culture Detective last year exploring “The Fantastic Masculinity of Newt Scarmander” that covered almost everything I loved about him and this film continued to keep him consistent. It was great to see his motives get more explanation and that they didn’t get bogged down with TOO much of him being quirky and confusing to everyone around him (his alienating aspect of the first movie was great for an introduction but too much would have just made him nothing more than the 11th Doctor).
Too many plots were being juggled. The LeStrange family tree plot felt a bit undercooked. Grindelwald felt like he had to share his antagonist role with another enemy in the form of…family history flashbacks?
I really would like to see what was left on the cutting room floor. So many scenes felt trimmed at the edges to cut down screen time and they did so at the cost of impactful pacing. The result was like watching a long recap of a tv season I didn’t watch, or maybe even like dreaming within dreaming in Inception; you can’t really remember how everyone got here but it’s awful pretty.
Jill Florio Administrator
All too true, my friend. And they did sort of set up Queenie making ambivalent choices: the love enchantment was bordering on creepy and way too reminiscent of Merope Guant (Tom Riddle’s poor mum). That’s not how you solve things, no matter how sweet you are. She already had his heart, and his stomach (good cooking!). Moving to London would have solved the problem without any enslaving spells needed. So…okay, maybe she would buy into Grindlewald’s rhetoric, even though that falls apart completely (he kills Muggles). But then, Queenie isn’t very bright, and we were given to believe her telepathy got a little breather from hanging around his co-horts.
So that’s Queenie, who I adore and care about. The other new characters are fungible. Who’s a Lestrange? Who’s baby is what? Do we need to know these convoluted plot points AT ALL?
What is the purpose under the sun for making Nagini a woman, when we now know she somehow becomes Voldemort’s pet, who kills Snape and Burbage and that caretaker, and whom Voldemort MILKS for sustenance? And who becomes a horcrux that Neville kills? WHY?? Probably for fan service, but the implications are unappealing.
Leta was a good character, but she got lost in the jumble, and gets randomly killed off anyway.
I could keep on and on with these thoughts, but there was also a lot to like. I loved Newt befriending the Kitty Dragon, trying to earn his trust. He didn’t care what else was going on in the human world when there were critters to care for. I loved seeing his amazing apartment. Seeing him play with Picket and the button…Picket being useful…finding Picket’s tree at Hogwarts. The Niffler was a joy and made me get misty at the end when he limps up to Newt at the climax, bearing a mighty prize. I wanted more of the Kelpie, more of Bunty, more time in the suitcase, and perhaps another attempt to help Credence. Who better, you know? I liked how it was implied that Tina read Newt’s book enough to memorize it.
I will have to find this video you speak of. I understand Newt, having Asperger traits myself. It’s rare to have such a gentle hero be in the center of climactic world events. More Newt, more Newt/Jacob, Newt/Tina, and even Newt/Dumbledore. Less of….everything else.
Dan Gardner Administrator
Ha, I thought the reason the movie was so disjointed was because I hadn’t seen the first FB since it came out in theaters. Now I understand, it’s because it was just sort of a mess.
I noticed that right away that Grindelwald threw his “pet” away to die, which is a cheap way to show us that he’s pure evil. But in fact he’s not. He has an agenda for sure, one that he thinks is righteous, but he’s not pure evil, so throwing away his pet just doesn’t work for any good reason other than poor writing.
Jill Florio Administrator
Yes, so true. The first FB movie is almost a complete stand alone film. It only ties into the larger mythology when Grindelwald is revealed in the last five minutes. If all you remember is that Tina and Newt like each other, and Jacob and Queenie like each other, then you’re good. Oh, and Credence is a dangerous Obscurial because his adopted mother beat him senseless.
I kind of thought the whole Grindelwald pet thing was to contrast him with Newt, who likes creatures better than people. I’m not sure really what Grindelwald likes, actually. He’s not much of a team player.
Newt, if he was there, would probably have jumped out the carriage after the lizard, and forgot about Grindelwald escaping. His mind isn’t in the whole “hero business” game. He’s there to find Tina. I’m pretty sure he’d just as soon stay home with his zoo and leave chasing Grindelwald to the Aurors. He likes Dumbledore well enough, but doesn’t seem interested enough to play the part he’s being asked to do. It’s not the trope of the reluctant hero, like Frodo and the One Ring…it’s more like he’s got his own mission to worry about (getting Tina, saving creatures, updating his book).
I’ve been messaging a bit with… Jill?… Someone here at RunPee… This article and conversation was brought up and I thought I’d share some of my thoughts… And a theory about Credence…
Firstly. I enjoyed the movie.
I don’t fret about not caring about the new characters, because at one point, Harry, Hermione, Ron… The whole gang were new. We didn’t meet Remus until book and movie 3. And he was loved almost from his first scene.
So, what I’m saying is that dismissing new characters is short sighted…
Other than the fact that we knew Newt’s name and authorial status from the books, why should we have cared about him in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them?
Get my point?
I don’t recall the pet lizard being thrown out bit… I had a problem with my soda (No syrup… Bleh!!!) and so I probably missed that… …
I do wish that they spent A LOT more time examining Grindelwald’s crimes. But i do see how the movie had so many other plot points to get to…
Though… They could have done without the Ministry jerks banning Newt from traveling… And trying to stop him… And annoying Dumbledore… These plot points did nothing to really add to the story. Just minor annoyances… And a sizable dent in Newt’s pocketbook…
I can accept Nagini being a human. But… The snake was quite clearly male when Harry released it at the zoo… (It is still the same snake right? Or was that a retcon I missed?)
Anyways… Is she an Animagi that gets stuck in the snake form? Is she pretending, like Peter Pettigrew? It’s an interesting plot point I think… Worthy of more fleshing out later…
Another thing that did bug me, is Grindelwald’s making the same mistake near the end, as he did in FB1…
Being one-upped by a magical creature…
He got trapped by the batty yoyo in FB1, then Newt stripped his disguise away…
Then the Niffler manages to steal his most important keepsake?. Come on…
And now… My original theories on Credence…
(Copied and pasted from my messages with RunPee…)
Albus was born in 1881, according to Pottermore per a Google search.
In 1927 he would be 46 years old. 18 in 1899…
Assume Credence is 17. He was born in 1910.
We know Dumbledore was involved with Grindelwald. That doesn’t make him gay… At least not ONLY gay…
Perhaps he is bisexual… (Rowling being a liberal progressive type. She would want to help normalize the LGBT+ community… Which is why she made him gay in the first place years ago…)
So. I’m saying Credence is Albus’ son… Perhaps an illegitimate son that he might not have known about… Or perhaps he did know, and the mother decided to take the baby from him, to the states.
The ship goes down and he believes them dead… The baby switcheroo happens and here we are concocting scenarios to make Credence a legit Dumbledore, or a red herring…
We won’t know for sure until JK wants us to know.
Alternatively, (Another message I sent to RunPee a day or so after…) Anything in parentheses I’ve added to clear these thoughts up. ……
I don’t see how she (Leta Lestrange) can be (dead). If she’s the last Lestrange… There has to be a source for us to get Bellatrix… Who is a Lestrange by marriage… That surprised me…
Something I hadn’t considered when making my theory is that Credence could be Aberforth’s kid… Makes the idea less interesting I think… (Being that we still don’t know much about Abe… I just think it would add more depth to the already deep Albus character… )
Jill Florio Administrator
Great comments and well said. Yes, this is Jill and we chatted on Facebook. I really appreciate your insights.
I’m going to stick with my complaint about all the new characters. As I said, it took many movies to make the HP cast so diverse, and the world slowly expanded in each installment. Here, we’ve got a lot of new people coming complete with intricate backstories that the casual viewer won’t care about. JK stuffed this one full of information no one was interested in yet. It’s like Dune and the Lord of the Rings: by the time they get to the exposition heavy segments (Esp the Council of Elrond), we are practically begging for background. It’s earned.
In contrast, I liked Newt for his personality. Same with Jacob and Queenie. I wasn’t all in with Tina until this second film, where it’s clear she read and re-read Newt’s book in an effort to be closer to him and his interests.
I liked Leta, but if her story doesn’t continue, I’m not sure why we bothered. Credence and Nagini…the family reveals…not sure what we were supposed to think about that. Multiple babies, tangled family trees, endless exposition, politics and extraneous subplots…not enough beasts, not enough about the core four, not enough humor or fantasy.
I’ll still trust in JK’s vision, but at this point in time, this is where I stand. I hope she proves my fears foundless.
OK, so a few things: Nagini is not the snake Harry releases at the zoo. That’s just a random snake. And she is a Maledictus, not an Animagus. The difference is that she has no real agency in her dire predicament: she’s destined to be stuck as a snake at some point.
Your theory about Credence being Albus’ son is pretty good. I like that a WHOLE lot better than him being yet another troubled sibling. But I could see making it work, with good stoytelling…or Grindelwald could be lying (the way I hope Ren is lying to Rey in Star Wars).
About the last Lestrange…that family tree is too confusing at this time for me to guess. I don’t want her dead, but if she isn’t, that’s yet another “not-real” death, like with Credence. It could feel a little cheap and lessen the impact. I was FURIOUS when Sirius and Remus died, and Cedric too…but those deaths stuck, and that’s brave storytelling. When it turned out that Harry actually didn’t die (or at least he came back), it was earned because of the rarity of such a thing. Not to mention his parents, Dumbldore, Snape…even the Resurrection Stone couldn’t bring people back in a meaningful way.
Yes, Bellatrix is a Black. She was Sirius first cousin, and married into the Lestrange family. I’m not sure how this will be resolved, but I’m not really interested in the specifics of wizarding family genealogies, except as supplementary material on Pottermore.
Maybe Credence is a son of Aberforth Dumbledore?
Anyway, good theories and conversation. This helps the Wizarding World make more sense, and is super fun to chat about!
Just to clear it up. I don’t currently care about the new characters. I’m just willing to give them a chance to develop more and gain some care from me. That’s all a part of these big multi-movie/book stories. It gives time to develop characters while telling different stories.
That’s not to say that they should get in the way of the immediate story. There does need to be a balance. A balance that this film didn’t achieve. Couldn’t achieve, with so many different plot points and characters. I’m just not worried about it. I’ll care about more characters later on.
Unfortunately I do think the non-sticking deaths is going to be a recurring trope in these films. Much like Grindelwald being fooled by the magical creatures.
And politics… That’s something I think JK should only continue adding if it really needs to be done. And not just JK… Other movies and TV series have gotten VERY political in the last few years. I’m all for equal rights and the American Wizarding community changing it’s views on mag/no-mag relationships… But I don;t want to be constantly told that America is bad… All because JK loathes the President. (I’m not his biggest fan either. But not everything needs to be politics…)
There really are a few different ways Credence could be in the family. He could be Aberforth’s son, or Albus’…
Or even more interestingly…
Possibly Ariana Dumbledore’s… Though this would mean she was a mother at 14 years old… Controversial… But entirely possible.
Then of course it could just be Gelert manipulating him and he isnt a Dumbledore at all… The phoenix might not be a phoenix at all. It could be a magic induced illusion. It could be that Grindelwald found one and is controlling it. It could be real, but not in any way related to the superstition that Dumbledore’s attract phoenixes…
Whatever the case… That nest sure looks like Fawkes’ nest in Dumbledore’s office at Hogwarts…
Jill Florio Administrator
Much to digest here, good stuff.
For one thing, there were two bird chicks: young Newt had one and Credence did too. It’s never said what bird was who’s, so it seemed as extraneous as the two babies to me. At least Newt staying at school during a holiday to care for the chick made sense. It could have been a baby Augury, or just some muggle bird. We do see a full grown Augury later at Newt’s house, when Jacboc makes that great line to it about ‘having enough of this own problems.” lol. He clearly read Newt’s book too.
I assumed Credence’s chick was a Crow/Raven, since his possible name was “Corvus”, which denotes the scientific family that includes crows and ravens. Maybe not a lot of people are familiar with that. I thought that was pretty clear, but everyone else I talked to thought it was a Phoenix because of Dumbledore’s throw-away line about his family’s relationship to them. So Credence caring for a crow chick makes the most sense: I think at that time he thought he was Corvus. JK Rowling never names anything by accident.
That line about Phoenixes with the Dumbledore family actually annoyed me, as I really don’t want this show to go down the Skywalker route of special bloodlines (beyond the blood family purity issues, which I think are well positioned in the larger wizard mythos.) I’m fine with the Skywalker Saga being about Skywalkers, since that’s the baked-in premise.
But it’s just too much in FB: I don’t need reveals for the sake of having reveals. I’m still annoyed Credence was brought back anyway, since it was a heartbreaking emotional beat that was immediately undercut in the following movie. We saw a black whisp fly away when the Obscurus was destroyed, so there was a hint he might have survived, but the next movie picks up with him overseas, being a stableboy in a magical circus. Huh?
I’d like Dumbledore to have a phoenix because he himself is special, not because they like his bloodline.
There’s a lot to like in CoG, but they squashed too much into the plot and killed off the one good new character (Leta). Except maybe they didn’t. Arg.
I expect the final film will see Albus and Gelert have the big fight. So the rest needs the kind of world-building that makes the view love being a part of that world. Not from needing a scorecard to track who is what and why they are there. I never even caught the name of Gelert’s female assistant, what that skull device was, or even the confusing cold open with Abernathy. And I don’t know who that double-crossing Auror was, or the point of ‘Tentacles’ having scars from trying to break an Unbreakable Oath. I just want some joy in-between the doomsdsay stakes. MORE NEWT/JACOB scenes, please.
So, loved Jude Law, and I am guessing the blood oath spells probably ricocheted and killed Ariana. And there’s been a lot of speculation that Ariana was an Obscurial, which I’m okay with. But the way things were presented, she was severely emotionally traumatized by Muggles. I’ve wondered before if that included rape. So yes, she could have had Credence at 14 and never recovered from it. That would be dark, but at least it wouldn’t come out of nowhere. We don’t need reconning, not in a universe already so clearly delineated.
Jill Florio Administrator
One last note on JK and politics. She clearly doesn’t like UK law either. The Ministry of Magic is just as bad as MACUSA. Fudge was a class-A screwup — small-minded, obfuscating, and paranoid. Umbridge needed to be removed from the gene pool.
I’m pretty sure Rowling has a bone to pick with governing bodies in general. Even Hogwarts, as much as we love it, was an institution with some disregard for the emotional well being and physical safely of their charges.