Opening with a dramatic carriage chase through the sky in the middle of a rainstorm, Fantastic Beasts: the Crimes of Grindelwald promised to be an exciting continuation of the Harry Potter universe. Unfortunately, many didn’t think it lived up to the hype. The movie had the lowest box office opening of any previous Harry Potter film, and critics argue that it was too focused on building the extensive HP universe for the next three movies in the Fantastic Beasts pentalogy. However, I disagree; I found The Crimes of Grindelwald to be just as delightful and magical as its predecessors.
Hufflepuff icon Newt Scamander, played by Eddie Redmayne, continued to steal the show in the sequel. His every interaction was an adorkable mix of shy yet heroic and obviously filled with many fantastic beasts. Personally, I would die for the baby nifflers, but Pick the bowtruckle is a close second. Even the newest ‘fantastic beast,’ the Zouwu (the large lion-like creature from the circus), stole the show with its fluttering multicolored tail. Overall, there was definitely an abundance of magical creatures to grow attached to throughout the film.
Criticisms of the new movie argue that it focuses too much on action and world building rather than character interactions. I can’t disagree that the cornerstone of the movie is definitely its amazing special effects, and that it introduces the audience to the more nuanced forms of casual magic in the Harry Potter world that go unaddressed in the original franchise. But the characters are anything but neglected. The movie teases a budding romance between Newt and Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), introduces the sibling rivalry between Newt and brother Theseus (Callum Turner), and elaborates on the complicated relationship between Dumbledore and Grindelwald which has been sought after since the original Harry Potter books. Yes, Queenie (Alison Sudol) and Jacob’s (Dan Fogler) relationship was both put together and ended messily, but I appreciate multiple complex storylines more than two and a half hours of one boring relationship. Should Queenie have joined Grindelwald considering he stood for everything she was against? No, but I agree that someone important had to go over to his side to really make his potent power known. And considering Credence wasn’t exactly good or bad, him joining Grindelwald wouldn’t have had the same impact as Queenie’s departure.
For me, the cast was the strongest part of the Fantastic Beasts sequel. Callum Turner (Theseus) and Eddie Redmayne (Newt) really do look like brothers, and young Newt (Joshua Shea) sounded almost exactly like Redmayne. However, Johnny Depp’s ex-wife actress Amber Heard (Mera in the upcoming Aquaman movie) accused him of sexual abuse and won the case against him which has sparked outrage over his casting in the latest Fantastic Beasts movie. Although I can’t speak to whether the accusations are true or not, Depp is famous and rich and doesn’t need the success of The Crimes of Grindelwald. Would it really have been that much trouble to cast someone else? I don’t think he personally added that much to the character anyways, and Colin Farrell could have easily not morphed into Depp in the first film and played a Grindelwald just as good (if not better) than Depp’s.
Depp’s casting is not the only criticism J.K. Rowling has faced recently. She announced that Dumbledore is gay after the books came out, and then didn’t include it in the recent movie. There are accusations of cultural appropriation of Native American culture with Ilvermorny, the American wizarding school, houses. She also cast an Asian actress (Claudia Kim) to play Nagini, who becomes somewhat of a slave snake to Voldemort in the original Harry Potter books. While I agree that these criticisms have merit, there are still three more Fantastic Beasts movies for Rowling to address this concerns. Will Nagini have more of a backstory? Will Dumbledore’s romantic love for Grindelwald become explicit? Probably! Rowling herself explains that there are more movies to explore these characters further, and that she alone does not have sole control over casting and storylines.
Despite a few problems with The Crimes of Grindelwald, it was still a perfect addition to the Harry Potter universe. Harry Potter movies are supposed to be fun and filled with magical special effects, and the newest Fantastic Beasts fit that role perfectly. Now, how am I supposed to wait two years to see more of the baby nifflers?