“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald”: An in-depth discussion

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Katherine: What were your initial thoughts on the film?

Ernesto: I am severely disappointed by how this movie turned out. Where was anything interesting that was promised in the trailer? Where was anything that had to do with Grindelwald, the namesake for this movie?

K: I totally agree. Grindelwald’s screen time amounted for not even half of the movie. It felt like more of a love triangle between Newt, Lestrange and Tina. The main plot seemed to be a last minute idea rather than an actual conflict for the characters to face. The most screen time for Grindelwald was at the very beginning and the very end.

E: The most exciting part of this movie happened in the first ten minutes of this movie too. Everything after that was downhill from there. I wanted to see Newt and Grindelwald or Dumbledore and Grindelwald or anyone and Grindelwald duking it out but the most conflict we got out of that film was the verbal confrontation at the end.

K: Yes, a big cinematic fight would have been very fulfilling, possibly even redeemable, but the most that was given was some blue fire that killed anyone who wasn’t fully committed to Grindelwald’s cause and a discount Order of the Phoenix fight that for some reason would destroy Paris. I disagree that a fight between Dumbledore and Grindelwald would be a good choice this early into the franchise because then what would be the overall climax for the last film? But with this latest revelation I can’t even be sure Albus Dumbledore will be fighting Grindelwald.

E: Well if J.K. Rowling and David Yates weren’t grasping at straws for a decent story I’m sure they’d think of something. I don’t want to have to wait another three films (for a grand total of five films for this franchise) to see Dumbledore and Grindelwald to tango.

K: True, this film did feel stitched together with fraying threads, but couldn’t the same argument be said for Harry and Voldemort? I mean, they did fight in almost every book but there was still an anticipated fight and one that did not disappoint.

E: I guess you’re right, I’m just impatient.

K: I completely understand, and overall the movie felt as though it was planned to be a filler but needed something to boost box office sales besides the name.

E: If more of the production budget was spent on a decent story than it was spent on visual effects, maybe they would get a better movie that would do well at the box office. That whole time, I was too busy distracted by all the fancy, flashing lights to understand the plot at all.

K: 100 percent. There was too much going on (visual effects wise) to follow the small semblance of a plot. For example, when Newt blows the gold dust around him, I completely forgot what he was looking for until the end of that entire scene. All I could think was “Wow, that’s so pretty!” and “Oh look it’s the niffler! So cute!” I think the worst part is that visual effects were even used in the only big, dramatic fight scene in the whole movie. I could barely follow what Grindelwald was doing and his shitty blue flames didn’t help.

E: Yeah, the discount Balrog didn’t have any real ramifications going on. Even the other characters’ deaths, like Leta Lestrange, or character switches, like Queenie, felt so insignificant because there wasn’t enough screen time to care. When Leta Lestrange did die, her last words “I love you” were in the direction of both Newt and Theseus. Because there wasn’t enough time for me to get emotionally attached to these characters, however, I just don’t care enough to read into who Leta was really saying that to. Her final words were a waste of a good line.

K: I believe it is important to develop the characters’ relationships to one another more before  saying a line like that as well. It’s hard to care when something of that caliber is said if, not only does the audience not know who it is directed to, but also cannot truly feel the impact of the statement as well. Another issue is that the audience is following Newt’s story and his insight, making the audience want him to achieve his goals, and it was shown throughout the whole movie that Newt loves Tina. How can I root for the protagonist to be with someone they don’t love?

E: Oh yeah, this movie was barely about Newt. We went down eight different rabbit holes of stories, each less thought out than the last. And when they all finally came together in the end, it was the equivalent of mixing a bunch of different colored paints trying to get a rainbow, but ending up with brown. Everything about this movie was so forgettable. We literally forgot that Albus Dumbledore, arguably the most important character in this entire series outside of Harry Potter, was in this film. He had so little screen time and so little motivation to play an active role in this film that this movie would have done the same plot wise without his inclusion. He’s the biggest name drop you could possibly have in this movie and he’s tossed aside to make way for the incoherent mess that comes with all these other plot lines.

K: Speaking of Albus Dumbledore, the supposed protagonist of this huge fight, might not even be the person fighting in the end. I was excited to see a young Dumbledore and his “best friend” battle it out, but instead was told he has a long lost family member? And while this could be a red herring, the concept of the phoenix arriving to a Dumbledore in times of need greatly disproves this. Why would Credence need a phoenix if he’s not to fight Grindelwald? And why would Grindelwald be so invested in Credence if he’s not Grindelwald’s downfall?

E: In that case I’m calling it now: The final fight (6-7 years down the line) will be between Grindelwald and Dumbledore, but Dumbledore still isn’t strong enough to beat him. Credence will switch sides at the last minute after seeing how bad Grindelwald really is, and he’ll be the one to take Grindelwald down. But because he’s an obscurus and can’t control his power, he’ll make the hero’s sacrifice defeating Grindelwald, and history will write Dumbledore the sole victor, staying in line with the current Harry Potter canon.

K: I hope that’s the ending we receive because it feels as though any other ending would result in a conflict as far as canon goes or an extremely far-fetched ex machina that doesn’t make any sense. If they figure out what to do about that blood pact by the time that movie comes around then maybe we’ll see something like it.

E: What the heck is a blood pact? We already have a unbreakable vow, now we have a blood pact? Why? Do we need more homoerotic undertones between Grindelwald and Dumbledore? Its 2018, just come out of the Room of Requirement already.

K: Unlike the Unbreakable Vow, the blood pact never showed what was at stake or why it was being made. The audience just gets a subtle nod towards J.K. Rowling’s Twitter canon and fan theories, but no actual understanding of the reason or risks of making a blood pact. I mean, it seems as though it’s stronger than an unbreakable vow, but there’s no indication of why or how. If Dumbledore and Grindelwald made an unbreakable vow, it would instantly defeat any idea of a climactic fight due to the canonical nature of the unbreakable vow, which, when broken, results in death.

E: With the idea of the blood pact, we get the equivalent of J.J. Abrams’ mystery box, making the blood pact have endless possibilities because this is the first time we ever see it. But because their stakes aren’t implied like with an Unbreakable Vow, I just don’t care about a blood pact for the time being. Maybe two movies from now I’ll care, but I’m not trying to play the long game, I’m just trying to see the magic equivalent of fisticuffs.

K: While I am anticipating some, hopefully better, fight scenes, I can’t help but wonder how the fights will impact Newt’s story. How is Newt going to be affected by Dumbledore and Grindelwald’s blood pact other than Dumbledore was Newt’s professor? Why is Newt Scamander in a movie titled Crimes of Grindelwald if the main fight doesn’t even involve him?

E: As these films go on, they can only get so far telling the story from Newt’s perspective, a magizoologist who reluctantly happens upon the anti-muggle rebellion of the century which happens to be against the most powerful Dark Wizard of its time. If Newt is only famous for his book, aptly named “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” then how can he be any more important as time goes on? He’s been reluctant to fighting Grindelwald so far up until the end of the movie, but if these next films are going to be him at the forefront, where is his name in the history books for putting in end to Grindelwald’s reign? Because a much more interesting story would be continuing these movies from Dumbledore’s perspective instead of Newt’s. That would be way better than what is currently being done. Assuming J.K. Rowling and David Yates can pull it off, then I’d be all for it.

K: Totally. Shifting the perspective over to Dumbledore would yield better results, but there was so much emphasis on side characters and their subplots, can that even be done at this point? If they had put more energy into Dumbledore’s plot and his motives, then the shift could happen more organically, but with the amount of screen time invested in telling Newt not to say “salamander” I think the chances of a good, organic shift are very slim.

E: You’re right, trying to make something better out of what we have will only leave us disappointed when the next movie comes around. It’s out of our hands anyways so hopefully they know what they’re doing.

K: Another topic that was widely considered a controversial choice was Nagini and her backstory. While her story was explained better, it was still rife with controversy. Rowling’s choice to make Nagini human for a brief period of time was a poor one. I understand that the choice might have been to generate some form of sympathy for Nagini or her character, but the same could have been done effectively, with a whole new character. It came off as Rowling trying to be inclusive with no regard to her story’s canon. Why drag a not-so-innocent snake from a previous set of films into this one? Let Nagini stay Voldemort’s loyal, living Horcrux and make an already existing character with better motivations.

E: Exactly. Energy is being put into the wrong things with this movie, like what was surrounding the Leta Lestrange plot line involving Credence and Yusuf. The whole idea of this “poem” that keeps getting referenced by everyone is never even explicitly said. No one quotes the “poem” verbatim, but instead they just give us shitty summarizations about it, hinting at how this plot line between the three of them is supposed to play out. And then when their plot twist does play out, they treat it look this was some big revelation we were all supposed to come to but really it just came out of left field.

K: It definitely felt confusing and was very uneasy to follow. Leta’s whole plot was so difficult to understand. I found myself questioning her motivations and the real reasons for her actions. It may just be because she’s a Slytherin, but Malfoy was an easier character to follow … even Snape had clearer intentions than Leta. The Newt and Leta romance felt forced and one-sided, especially because of Newt’s struggle to confess his feelings for Tina. I guess it’s kind of sad really that “You’re eyes are the color of salamanders,” carries more sentiment than an “I love you,” before death.

E: Okay, we’ve really torn this movie apart, so let’s try and get to the positives about this movie.

K: While they were few and far between, one of the things I most enjoyed was the amount of easter eggs in this movie. Not all of them were correct as far as timelines go, but it was still a few seconds of fun nostalgia for the viewers. One of my favorites had to be the iconic Philosopher’s stone in Nicolas Flamel’s house. Seeing the small, but impactful object that was the driving point of the first film really made me miss the initial series.

E: Yes, there were easter eggs a plenty. I don’t know if this counts as an easter egg but more so a historical allusion, but when Grindelwald is having his Wizards Rally and he takes a fat rip out of that skull juul pod, and he shows wartime tanks and planes, along with a rising mushroom cloud, all this is obviously alluding to World War II and the death and destruction that comes with it. The way everyone in the room reacts to this newfound information provides some new insight into how the world would react if they had this knowledge beforehand. It’s also interesting to think that the wizards can be fearful of muggles in this case. In the past, wizards stayed in hiding for their benefit, but because this future of muggles raining down hellfire on the world, suddenly a decision has to be made about whether or not they have to intervene.

K: One of the other cool aspects of the movie was the portrayal of each visited country’s Ministries and how the design was influenced by the culture and style of that particular country. The first Ministry that was visited was the British Ministry with its pre-Dumbledore vs. Voldemort showdown style. Then there was the transition to the French Ministry, and, while only there for a short time, the clean and refined style was very reminiscent of the Eiffel Tower. Both of these Ministries manage to present a clear and unique style while still retaining the “magical government office” vibe.

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