‘Crimes of Grindelwald’ digs itself a grave of unanswered questions

I’ll get straight to the point. Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald” is an overambitious yet underwhelming addition to the Potterverse. But—yes, here’s the absolutely divisive catch—the way it wields magic on the screen is still as jaw-dropping as ever.

While it’s a reunion between director David Yates and JK Rowling (who’s now in charge of the franchise’s screenplay), the sequel takes on a different tone. One that is grimmer than the first, with a certain swiftness that is nothing but an illusion.

There is not one character that takes the lead in the film. Rather, it apparates from one narrative to the next, struggling to emphasize the individual directions of its main players for the sake of a more franchise-building piece.

It’s a shame that even with such a stellar cast—which boasts of a long list of brilliant and sought-after actors, including Eddie Redmayne (Newt Scamander), Jude Law (Albus Dumbledore), Johnny Depp (Gellert Grindewald), and Ezra Miller (Credence Barebone)—viewers are more alienated to the characters they portray. It’s ironic how Rowling feeds the audience with so much information in such short sequences, only to leave with them unsatisfied of each of its significance.

“Crimes of Grindelwald” establishes itself as the movie where the light and dark separates and alliances begin to take more shape. But Newt’s taking of sides isn’t quite as impactful as one would think it would be. There is no compelling sense of urgency despite lives taken and sacrificed, but hopefully his choice would be used to cause conflict and court trial in the franchise’s next chapters.

For a much-needed clarity, the so-called “crimes of Grindelwald” are actually best explained in the newspaper clipping sequences shown at the beginning of “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” This persona is actually painted quite differently in this sequel, proposing an obvious inconsistency.

He was introduced as an unfeeling and impatient antagonist when he disguised himself as Graves, only concerned about the destruction that an Obscurial could cause. But maybe that’s where his deceitful manipulation roots itself—Grindelwald is turned into this concerned and magnetic villain whose rebellious cause orchestrates its power from fear without being ruthless.

Young Albus is also shown with the wisdom and persuasion he’s known to have, but it fails to establish him as the flawed character that the film intended to—only because there wasn’t  much of him on the screen!

However, his appearance does magnify this prequel franchise’s purpose: to shed light to anecdotes that were merely mentioned in Harry Potter. It teases much to look forward to, in particular, the story of how Albus Dumbledore rose to power to become the revered wizard that history would write him to be.

There were a lot of elements in the film that serve as nothing more than (enjoyable) fan service. The Scamander and LeStrange love triangle is one. It seems to me like it was an attempt to replicate the warm feelings that were derived when Snape’s unspoken love for Lily was revealed. Inconveniently, one is left to ask: Who is Leta LeStrange’s true love? What exactly is the purpose of introducing that (fizzled out) love triangle later on?

The sequel continues to broaden the magical universe in an attempt to introduce wizardry across multiple borders. But unlike the introduction of the MACUSA, France as a setting does not offer any context nor resolve. It just serves as a new pin on the globe.

The movie’s plot twists are conveniently shockers to save it from its own demise. However, it later on becomes more apparent how these unexpected revelations are too much of an afterthought, with Rowling condensing her imagination as we go through one film at a time (there are actually three more left for the franchise). The unfolding of events on one hand enriches the narrative and cloaks it with intrigue, but also casts doubts on its pursued direction altogether.

It’s tragically boring for the most part, but it still has its lasting moments of brilliance. It will make you question what is canon and the lengths of possibility this majestic world can continue to stretch itself to.

It’s no secret that sagas always have that one installment that lacks impact. Hopefully for the sake of the Potterverse, “Crimes of Grindelwald” will serve as its last casualty. After all, there are interconnected fates left to be explored, and hopefully more whimsical beasts for our amusement.

Here’s another truth: Words (whether in reviews or not) often remain inconsequential, and really won’t sway diehard fans to miss this movie. So go to the theaters and find out its “oh shit” of an ending. Go!

Photos courtesy of 2018 Warner Bros. Entertainment
& Wizarding World, Publishing Rights © J.K. Rowling

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