FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD: A Harry Potter Prequel Gone Wrong

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 13: Johnny Depp attends the UK Premiere of "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald" at Cineworld Leicester Square on November 13, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Marsland/WireImage)

Just set the record straight. I am a huge Harry Potter fan. I’ve read all seven of the books approximately five times, watched all the movies too many times to count, attended midnight premieres of the films and the books, and have seen all parodies that exist (A Very Potter Musical, Puffs, and even Potter Puppet Pals). I have completed the Harry Potter “top 200” quiz on Sporcle and frequent Harry Potter trivia nights. I know what I’m talking about when I say Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is a load of crap.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald Latest Franchise Prequel to Disappoint

Let me back up. I wanted to like this movie. I really did. The first installment of this five-part prequel wasn’t amazing, but thoroughly enjoyable. It was entertaining and exciting to have a new story within the Harry Potter realm. It felt familiar enough to latch on to but separate enough that it could stand on its own.

Fast forward to The Crimes of Grindelwald — the second installment of the Fantastic Beasts series. Parts of the film were definitely entertaining. The opening scene was enthralling and drew me in, as did the last third of the film. There were dramatic moments, a lot of visual and special effects and some twists that didn’t feel overly contrived. Still, the movie left a lot of confusion in its path and many viewers might wonder what JK Rowling could possibly be thinking.

The Crimes of JK Rowling

All the elements that made the first Fantastic Beasts good were gone. Unlike the first one, it felt too involved in the Harry Potter realm and tried too hard to incorporate all the new characters. There is possibly a cool story buried deep down, though, with all the unnecessary storylines, lack of excitement throughout much of the film, and constant red herrings, it’s hard to tell.

Rowling wrote this film and honestly, it shows. If there is anything we learned about her from her Harry Potter books, it’s that she isn’t a woman of few words. In a novel, you can get away with a lot — meandering storylines, too many subplots to count, flashbacks and lots of backstory and small character details. In a film, however, those elements bog the story down and make it feel very dragged out — like most of Crimes of Grindelwald did.

Rowling’s desire to write these new films and maintain creative control over the story is understandable. Film studios do not have the best track record of listening to the original creator’s input. However, there is a reason book adaptions are often written by screenwriters and not the novelists themselves. Screenwriters understand how a film should flow and how that differs drastically from a book. Some people are talented at both screen- and novel writing, but Rowling seems to shine most in the latter.

Was some character development important? Absolutely. Are slower moments often crucial to the story? For sure. Do red herrings and twists make the story more exciting? To a point. The film had some very good development from Queenie, Newt, and Dumbledore that will probably be relevant to a larger story overall. Some of the twists, especially involving Queenie (not to spoil anything) felt realistic and interesting, for a minor character. However, the never-ending search for Credence’s parents led to so many dead ends that it felt like a failed “choose your own adventure story.”

Another thing that bogged the story down was tying it too much to Harry Potter. All the nods to Harry Potter probably made a lot of Potter fans excited, except that the timelines make little sense (hello McGonagall who wasn’t born for another seven years?). Also, the introduction of random new characters that seem hard to fit into the existing Harry Potter narrative was downright confusing.

Last Word on Crimes of Grindelwald

Harry Potter is surely not the first franchise to try and fail to create new prequel stories (see: Star Wars and The Hobbit). This, however, seems particularly careless considering the author of the beloved series wrote it. I will watch the rest of the films in an attempt to find redemption in them, but I think after Crimes of Grindelwald it will be hard.

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