Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018) – Review

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is now in theaters.

[Ed. Note: Being that TV and City is on a bit of a hiatus, this article has not been edited.]

By Leo Newmark

Let me start by stating how while, yes, there have been many reviews written about The Crimes of Grindelwald, the critics involved seemed to have forgotten that this is only the second film of five. I will not just be analyzing this film as a stand-alone production, but I will look into how it fits into a larger story — the story of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter universe.

As a little reminder, The Crimes of Grindelwald introduces our protagonists’ new challenge in standing up to the second most powerful dark wizard in the world, Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp). With a brilliant opening sequence showing his escape from the grasp of MACUSA (the Magical Congress of the United States of America), Grindelwald makes his ultimate goal quite clear: the ascension of pure-blood wizards as the dominant power over both Muggle and non-Muggle worlds alike.

I find that most of us are aware of the controversies surrounding Johnny Depp’s inclusion as a cast member. These controversies are due to previous accusations of abuse made against him by his ex-wife Amber Heard. Whether these accusations are true I cannot say, but I can firmly claim that it would be a sin to allow them to stand in the way of our appreciation of this absolutely essential film. Why is it essential? It is quite simple: there were a number of revelations and sub-plots thrown at us, and many viewers were displeased by that fact, but all of these intricacies were necessary for the rest of the franchise to make proper sense. The most important piece of the puzzle is the revelation that Credence— oh, whoops. Moving along…

Equipped with the knowledge that the Fantastic Beasts franchise is J.K. Rowling’s first screenwriting gig, one cannot help but wonder why she hasn’t been at it for years. The final result, although sometimes exhibiting cliché dialogue, demonstrates a true dedication to these tales. She did a particularly wonderful job with one of the key points that I look for in a screenplay: the ending. This film’s ending did not drag and provided us with what some might say is the most important piece of family history ever given to us in all ten films so far.

My main complaint about the ending of the first film, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, however, was that I found it to be irritating that Tina Goldstein never says goodbye to Jacob Kowalski — at least not on screen — before he is to be obliviated. Seriously, rewatch that scene and you will easily be convinced that Tina is as valuable in those moments as a lamp-post. This comment is not made against the actress (Katherine Waterston), but against the screenwriter who seems to have forgotten why Tina was there in the first place.

Thus, I was very glad to see the relationship between Jacob and Tina develop more in-depth in this sequel, working together with characters new and old to defeat a common enemy. In the end, it almost makes up for that missing goodbye, but I should still like to see their relationship more solidified over the next three films.

Through fantastical means, this film touches on relationships between brothers, the powers and destructive forces behind love, the innocence behind all evil, and the globality of darkest forces imaginable. While seeming to be too dependent on CGI at times, the cinematography does not disappoint, and the score is simply incredible — could we really expect less from Philippe Rousselot and James Newton Howard? There were definitely times when the film felt overwhelming and boring, but it was overall a great experience. And after watching the movie you’ll find yourself questioning if Grindelwald was wrong all along, or if the ends do truly justify the means. I expect that the next films in the franchise will reach higher numbers in the box office and that fans of both the books and films will be greatly pleased. I suggest that we all take a deep breath and accept that this is a sort of “bridge” film, if you will, only necessary to move the story forward. Once again, we do have three more films to go, which leaves much room for failure, but the Fantastic Beasts pentalogy (I love this word!) seems to be promising a franchise that will be watched by generations to come.

I give Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald a B.