"Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald" misses the mark

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Reina Makimura

Warning: Contains movie spoilers
 
“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” is the long-awaited sequel to “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” and the prequel to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter franchise.
 
The film follows magical zoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) in his quest to find the mysterious Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller). He is joined by friends from the previous movie, Tina and Queenie Goldstein (Katherine Waterston and Alison Sudol) and Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler).They believe that Credence is the key to dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp)’s plan.
 
“The Crimes of Grindelwald” is a visually stunning film, and entertained audiences worldwide. However, the film did run into roadblocks, especially concerning pacing and character.
The CGI and other special effects are unparalleled within the Harry Potter franchise. With the spells, fantastic beasts and all kinds of other magic, it is hard not to be impressed with the beauty of the film.
The creatures, visually appealing and complex, are also fun to watch and learn about. Newt introduces the audience to a chupacabra, a kelpie, the matagot and the cat-like zouwu. Returning favorites also include nifflers (and niffler babies), thestrals, bowtruckles and at the very end of the movie, a fire-red phoenix.
 
The characters all provided a lot of potential. The returning leads did not disappoint and the movie introduced new favorites such as Theseus Scamander (Callum Turner) and Leta Lestrange (Zoe Kravitz). Theseus was exciting to meet and the development of his relationship with Newt was heartwarming. Leta’s plotline felt rushed and cramped — her emotional arc was stuffed into a five minute flashback — however, what the audience did see of her was refreshing.
 
Nagini (Claudia Kim) was expected to be one of the most interesting. Her unique position as a Maledictus could have been really gripping to watch unfold. However, she didn’t live up to expectations. Instead, she was out shadowed by Credence and it can be argued that she served mostly as a prop for his growth. Hopefully, she will be in future films, and her character will be fleshed out more. Right now, her character is not consistent with what she becomes in the Harry Potter films and will be intriguing to see what path she takes in the future.
 
The creatures and adventures into the wizarding world, however, mask the slow unfolding of the plot. The characters are slowly introduced to what is thought to be the main focus of the film — Credence’s unknown background. However, the focus begins to alternate between this and the work of the magical government and Grindelwald’s work.
The attempt to explore several plots comes with some good things, such as allowing the audience to see magic in countries other than the United Kingdom and the United States and seeing more wizards and witches using different kinds of magic.
 
For example, the film introduces a traveling and outdated freak show in a hidden underground alley, one aspect of magical life that no one had thought of before. Audiences also got to see the archives of the wizarding world, another aspect that also hadn’t been talked about before.
 
More often than not, however, the film tried to encompass too many ideas all at once. The plot moved slowly, until the final twenty minutes, when entire life stories were told in flashbacks. The first hour of the film had no clear direction and tried to go in several, while the last half hour was just confusing.
 
The final half hour included several “twists,” the first being Queenie’s betrayal when she joins Grindelwald.
 
Critics have called Queenie’s betrayal completely out of character and noted that it did not align with anything that she’s previously done. In the first Fantastic Beasts movie, she was steadily against Grindelwald and in the beginning of the second, she remained so — until the very end. Essentially, she went from loveable to naive and problematic.
 
Her primary motivation in this movie was her want to marry Jacob, however even that seemed stretched. She begins the movie by magically drugging him to make him marry her, something that was barely addressed and completely out of her kind nature.
 
The second big twist was the final reveal of the movie: that Credence is actually Aurelius Dumbledore. To say the least, audiences are reluctant to accept this. For one thing, the presence of a fourth Dumbledore is not at all compliant with what has been revealed of the Dumbledore family before. There are three Dumbledore siblings – Albus, Abernathy, and Ariana – and there is never a mention of a fourth.
 
The deaths of the Dumbledore parents also is not compliant with their stories in the Harry Potter books and movies. In this movie, Credence’s parents drown on a ship headed to America. In the original stories, the mother is killed in an accident, and the father is in prison for murder.
 
One explanation of this twist being non-compliant is that it is a lie and Credence isn’t actually a Dumbledore. However this seems unlikely, as this movie already explained his heritage and then took back the explanation several times. It feels to many just a grasp for shock value, rather than a twist that makes sense.
 
Overall, the film was just okay. Despite the wonderful effects and new experiences revealed, the plot’s lackluster presentation brings the movie down. It’s fairly inconsistent, pulling new plot points out of nowhere, and simultaneously attempts to show countless new ideas and stories whilst also telling the main plot, slowing down the movie as a whole. The movie ends with an unsatisfying “cliffhanger,” feeling like it was just trying to lead into the next movie. It’s not terrible and is worth watching, but it could have been better.