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New Film: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
Directed by David Yates

Writers have been implored to protect the secrets of this latest film from the Harry Potterverse and so there’s only so much one can say. It’s especially limiting when the twist itself is part of the film’s problem – and requires us to believe that Grindelwald went from being relatively clueless on a certain topic to being a walking wizard, all while being held in solitary confinement. It’s almost like there’s a missing chapter.

After saving New York, Newt Scamander is back to misunderstood pariah status in London and forbidden to leave the country in search of he who must not be named. Naturally, however, in true protagonist form, he’s not good with instructions. But “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” is primarily a grand call to arms for Grindelwald, like a far right rally in which all of the future crimes against the folks on the outside of the group are justified in terms of preserving the freedoms of the folks on the inside. It’s hard to guarantee somebody else’s safety when you’re more concerned about your own perceived right to kill them, or at least hold them in contemptible disregard.

And there’s a lot of killing here. The early casual killing of a baby, albeit off screen, is enough to make one realize how unlike a typical children’s film this is. Although the original stories were all about the outcome of an attempted baby killing that failed, so maybe that’s not so out of keeping for the franchise.

This seems more of a film for the adults who were kids when Harry Potter came out than for a new generation of kids who might be expecting to grow up with these new stories. Except this newest story messes with the old ones, causing apparent disruptions to the established timeline. The big reveal has its own related problems, but even something as simple as Professor McGonagall showing up at Hogwarts (a welcome sight) isn’t all that simple, when online fans point out that she shouldn’t even have been born when the film is set, let alone during even earlier flashbacks. Maybe this screenwriting is dependent on time turners, or maybe it’s responsible for time turners being banned.

Aside from that, it suffers from that typical “middle” problem). It doesn’t start at a beginning, and is likely to be mysterious to anybody who hasn’t seen the previous film. And the best it can hope for is a relatively stimulating cliffhanger or marginal resolution, as we know it has to keep going and get bigger and bigger in doing so. After all, if the timelines didn’t suddenly seem so fluid, there ought to be decades more action to follow before there’s any real resolution between the major players involved.

So it’s a very dark film that isn’t very kid friendly and that doesn’t seem to respect the timeline and the details that the most eager fans pick through. On the upside if this concerns you, as it did me, Johnny Depp as Grindelwald is fairly restrained and Jude Law slides easily into Dumbledore’s tweed suit, which apparently pre-dates his later love of robes. But overall it’s going to be more of a curiosity for many and likely only a compulsive choice for those who can’t imagine skipping any part of it. I’m in that latter group, so I’ll be there again for the next one whether or not the details seem consistent.

About the author

Tony Sheppard

Tony is a Professor at Sacramento State, Co-Director of the Sacramento Film & Music Festival and a long-time writer, primarily on topics related to film and the film industry. He is an active supporter of the local arts community, an amateur photographer, and has an interest in architecture and urban planning topics. He is currently designing a 595 sq.ft. house on a very small infill lot in Sacramento.

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