“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald”
3 out of 5 Stars
Director: David Yates
Writer: J.K. Rowling
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy
Rated: PG-13 for some sequences of fantasy action
SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) - Synopsis: Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) journeys to Paris in hopes of reconnecting with Tina Goldstein and finding Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller) before Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) or the Ministry of Magic’s Aurors can locate him.
Review: Throughout the Harry Potter stories there were numerous hard decisions that were made by all the major players (and quite a few of the minor ones too). I may not have agreed with all their decisions, but I at least had a sense of why they made their choices. In “The Crimes of Grindelwald” there are three major decisions made by characters that aren’t supported by what limited information we are given in this film. It is possible that subsequent entries in the Fantastic Beasts series will help to explain some of these decisions, but I worry that J.K. Rowling has backed herself into a corner by making Newt Scamander the central figure of this new string of stories.
With the Harry Potter books and films there was never any question about who the stories were about. Everything was built around Harry’s relationships. Newt may be presented as the lead character of “The Crimes of Gindelwald,” but his story is incredibly insignificant and his decisions remarkably insubstantial when compared to the stories of Credence Barebone, Queenie Goldstein and Leta Lestrange. He’s also completely overshadowed by Albus Dumbledore and Gellert Grindelwald.
So, we have a film about a character that has the sixth most interesting story in the movie.
That’s like making Neville Longbottom the lead character in “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.” Neville plays a significant role when it comes to one of the Triwizard Tournament challenges, but the story isn’t about him.
There will be many who prefer “The Crimes of Grindelwald” to “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” because it features familiar faces and a more direct connection to the Harry Potter stories. Sure, it’s interesting to see a younger Dumbledore, but he steals far too much of the attention. Considering this is a five-film run, it might be a little to early to start pandering to the core audience. Establishing the Fantastic Beasts franchise as something that stands on its own is more risky, but it would help to establish a Wizarding World that doesn't rely on the Harry Potter books for context.
“The Crimes of Grindelwald” would have been far more effective if it focused on Credence’s desire to know his parentage, Lita’s inability to forgive herself and escape the shadow of her lineage or Queenie’s frustration with the social structure of the Wizarding World. Or, it could have actually been about Grindelwald and his crimes.
I think I know what Rowling is trying to say, but it feels like she was looking forward to what comes next, rather than giving this installment the attention and nuance that it desperately needed.