I’ve been a huge Harry Potter fan since my dad ordered the first book for me just as it came out in the United States. I’m actually re-reading the book series right now, albeit slowly. Having said that, the first Fantastic Beasts movie didn’t totally thrill me. It was fine, it was fun, but it didn’t carry the weight for me that the Harry Potter stories always did. I think this was mostly because I got to read the Harry Potter stories and watch them, while with Fantastic Beasts it was just something that I watched.
This weekend my wife and I went out to see Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. The new movie follows up on the story started in the original with Newt Scamander, played by Eddie Redmayne giving a great audition for Doctor Who, going up against Colin Ferrel Johnny Depp’s Grindelwald… For reasons that I still don’t really understand.
I mean, come on; Newt is a guy who likes animals. Why, oh why, is Dumbledore utilizing him as his primary agent against the rise of a dark wizard and his former besty/lover?
That’s just an example of my big problem with this movie: It was a series of things that I didn’t really understand. I think with the Harry Potter movies this was never an issue because I’d read the books that had the more in-depth details, so even if the movie didn’t really explain what was happening on screen I knew enough background information to fill in the blanks. With this one, I felt like throughout the movie events just kept happening without a through-line. Characters would appear that I didn’t know, and, without clear motives, they’d go participate in those events that were happening without an explanation, and it just… It just didn’t really make much sense.
In the end, most of the confusing things about the movie did get explained, but, unlike reading the books, I didn’t feel any hope of figuring it out as it went, so I ended up just checking out of the story halfway through to wait for a giant exposition dump to make sense of everything. Which, of course, happened. Everything got tied together in one long, drawn-out scene just before the climax.
Well, almost everything.
Major spoilers ahead!
The one thing that wasn’t explained is why the heck we’re hearing about another Dumbledore kid. I mean, the Harry Potter books did a pretty good job of filling us in on the Dumbledore family, and then this movie introduces the idea that there was another brother that Albus maybe doesn’t know about who was lost in a shipwreck as an infant?… I just don’t quite get it.
I do want to clarify that despite my confusion with the story, the movie was fun! Just like the first Fantastic Beasts, it takes the magic that we’ve seen in the Harry Potter stories before and turns it up to 11, so you get these amazing spectacles throughout the movie, which keeps things at least visually interesting. There are explosions, sentient fire, bright colors, whimsy, and, of course, fantastic beasts… It’s got a lot going for it, but the story just didn’t do it for me.
I listened this morning to the Real Weird Sisters reaction show for The Crimes of Grindelwald, and one of the things they said right off the bat stuck with me. They talked about the idea that this new series of movies is fun, but that they mentally keep the original Harry Potter mythos in a safe, protected box, and don’t really worry about how these movies connect up with the original stories. I think with that perspective, this was a good movie… Or at least an okay one. It was a lot of fun to watch, and in the end, I enjoyed what the story was trying to accomplish, but I feel like it didn’t make itself super clear in the middle of things.
I’m glad that I’ve watched it, and I actually look forward to seeing it again, in hopes that the plot elements will make a little more sense next time.