Warning: this review has multiple spoiler alerts.
The second film in the Fantastic Beasts series Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald follows Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmaye), Tina Goldstein (Katherine Watson), and Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) come face-to-face with the havoc that Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) is capable of wreaking, with a perpetually manipulative Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) on standby. Spoiler alert: the film was immensely disappointing. JK Rowling needs to take screenwriting courses before she proceeds to her next money-making gimmick.
Where credit is due – the visuals effects of the film were compelling and immersive. I cannot say the same for audio effects where volume, as opposed to pacing, was prioritised. Eddie Redmayne artfully brought the quirky Newt Scamander to life. It was heartening to watch a much more self-assured Tina Goldstein this time. Jude Law had some oversized shoes to fill, and he did so with subtlety. As always, Dan Fogler was the life of the party and seems incapable of disappointing.
Jacob being robbed of his consent becomes a laughing point and a dopey-love scene.
Speaking of casting, alleged physical abuser Johnny Depp was allowed to play a key role in the film. In the wake of #MeToo and discourse on violence against women, why has he been signed for this franchise, irrespective of whether Amber Heard, his former wife, and him have come to a mutual agreement? This is a deliberate shirking of social responsibilities. In addition, it reinforces this current dynamic of abusive men not facing the consequences of their actions and earning bucket loads of money.
While we are discussing #MeToo, there is one extremely problematic scene on consent in the film which is in dire need of more discussion. Love interests from the former film, Queenie (Alison Sudol) and Jacob reunite – by Queenie bewitching Jacob and robbing him of his consent. The justification given here is Queenie’s frustration that the magical community and the ‘no-maj’ (non-magic/ Muggles) are not allowed to be together.
The enchantment is eventually lifted by Newt and the trope about Jacob being robbed of his consent becomes a laughing point and a dopey-love scene. Coming back to the point about JK Rowling needing screenwriting classes, she needs a crash course on consent and power dynamics as well. What are the standards being set here? Even if a woman violates consent, irrespective of intentions – violation of consent isn’t a laughing matter.
Crimes of Grindelwald set out to be a warning against supremacist politics, showcased by the megalomaniac Grindelwald and his destructive grab for power in the early 21st century. It is set in an alternative world where wizards like Grindelwald threaten the International Statute of Secrecy and he justifies his motives based on his prediction of the Second World War while simultaneously denying that he wants to turn the Muggle community into a subservient community. On the other hand, wizards and witches like Dumbledore, Tina, and Newt work round the clock to protect the soon-to-be-under-threat Muggles by standing in the way of Grindelwald. In this race to protect the Muggles, besides perpetual comic-relief Jacob, the Muggle voice is nowhere to be heard.
In this race to protect the Muggles, besides perpetual comic-relief Jacob, the Muggle voice is nowhere to be heard.
There are one too many plot twists thrown in. Just when we get around to wrapping our head around one storyline, a new twist is thrown into this already jumbled mess. For example, there is a new Dumbledore in town, as alleged by Grindelwald. But where did he come from? He is 20 years old, while the surviving Dumbledores are in their 40s. Their mother died when they were teenagers and their father was carted off to Azkaban even before that. And the Hogwarts robes were blue? Shoutout to queer-baiting with Albus Dumbledore again. It again isn’t specified whether he had a romantic relationship with Grindelwald. The only redeemable Lestrange shoulders the burden of the tragedy trope and ends up sacrificing herself. Let’s hope the next three films subvert the last two plot points.
This jumbled spoiled broth of one too many plot twists disrupt the original timeline as well. How old is McGonagall? In the original story, she joined Hogwarts sometime in the late 1950s. Here she is in the early 20th century running around Hogwarts. The stern, no-nonsense but immensely admirable professor is reduced to this hapless and shrieky teacher. I personally hope Maggie Smith doesn’t watch this decimation of her character. Again, how old is Dumbledore now? This film is set in 1927. His face-off with Grindelwald happens in the mid-forties. The next three films are supposed to jump through 18 years? When it comes to scrambling of timelines – I just barely scratched the surface here.
While the first film didn’t hit the standards set by the Harry Potter series, it was watchable. The Crimes of Grindelwald sank. Is a 5-film franchise really necessary? That too originating from a book that was supposed to be a fictional magical course book in the Hogwarts curriculum. JK Rowling seems to be milking money for the heck of it and destroying the good literary work she had originally done. If this 5-part franchise has to surface, then here’s hoping the next three films redeem themselves and save this drowning head-scratcher of a universe.
Featured Image source: Pottermore