Since years the cinemas are flooded by sequels, prequels, spin offs and reboots. This might work in some cases and does absolutly not in others. This falls sequel (and prequel as well) is called “Fantastic Beasts 2 – The Crimes of Grindelwald”.
Since the first “Fantastic Beasts”-film ended with a classic cliffhanger (what doesn’t mean anything at all in modern Hollywood), it was no question, that I would watch “The Crimes of Grindelwald”, be it only to see, wether this prequel-sequel works or not. And I must say… Well…
But first be warned, my friends! This review might contain some tiny spoilers. If you want to absolutly surprise by the movie, you probalby better do not read on.
What happend so far
As I mentioned the first Beasts ended with a cliffhanger. The protagonist Newt Scamander, who actually only wanted to bring a Thunderbird home, became involved into the pursuit of an Obscurus, some kind of dark magical being growing in human wizards or witches like some dark magical cancer. I may misstake the concept of the Obscurus but the picture of the cancer seems to fit best to me.
Though the book “Fantastic Beasts and where to find them” doesn’t actually tell a story but is a mere fictional encyclopedia, I wondered a bit, what this movie should be. Maybe some fictional “travel report” on how Mr. Scamander pursuit magical beings? Something in the way “Serengenti shall not die” or Disney’s “The living desert”? Most unlikely. But it would have been an intresting concept by the way. We all know (at least those, who have seen the film) that it has not been so much about the beasts themselves but more some “The Adventures of Newt Scamander” story. And than it becomes the beginning of the “Grindelwald” cycle with the revalation of the movie’s villain being nobody else but the most fearsome black magician in history next to Voldemort.
And then there is the important part of Credence Barebone, a young man presumed as a squib (someone of magical decendence without any magical abilities) but turning out to be the looked for Obscurial, carrying the looked for Obscurus in himself. Gellert Grindelwald searched for him presumably to use the Obscurus for his evil deeds, Newt Scamander to protect the world and finally Credence himself. The young man remained a mystery throughout the whole movie. He remained Credence Barebone to the end, there was no revalation of his origin. Of course there could be no such revalation. It must be part of the later story. In fact it could be part of the whole storyline to unveil this secret. He may be a chosen one, maybe even an anchestor of Harry Potter (even though this would be a bit lame, wouldn’t it?) or even nobody special as Rey seems to be noone special (except her abilities in the Force) in Star Wars. But the makers kept the secret and that was fine.
Why do I tell all this, as this review is intended to be about the second part? Because that knowledge is vital. You won’t understand the whole of the story told in “The Crimes of Grindelwald”, if you don’t know (or don’t remember), what’s happened in the first film. Because “The Crimes of Grindelwald” is a pure sequel to its predecessor. Everething vital to get into the story is told in “Fantastic Beasts an where to find them”. So if you haven’t seen this movie, I recommend to watch it before watching “The Crimes of Grindelwald”.
And what are those crimes?
Whether the title “Fantastic Beats 2 – The Crimes of Grindelwald” is proper, I am not sure and that for more than one reason.
Reason one: the beasts
A well as in part one the fantastic beasts are just a vehicle to lure the people into the cinema. They have an even smaller part than in the first film. To put them into the title makes no sense except for marketing reasons and actually it is completly unnecessary. Though the story is about Gellert Grindelwald and his deeds and plans to gain world domination, the Grindelwald part of the title would be sufficient. “The Crimes of Grindelwald” – all is said with that.
I admit, that the Harry Potter series had one great advantage: The books and the movies had Harry Potter, the chosen one to name a series of stories. The “Fantastic Beasts” lack such a person and nobody wants to watch movies about a villain, if there no heroic counterpart is mentioned. Newt Scamander is to unknown as a person (as was Potter in the beginning by the way) but to famous as the author of the encycolpedia of magical beings. He wouldn’t make a good title hero. Albus Dumbledore on the other side is far to famous. A Dumbledore series? No way! That would be to obviously milking the cow, until there’s no drop of milk left.
But then again: Why not calling the series something like “The Grindelwald Chronicles”? Or maybe “Credence Barebone and…”? Nobody knew Harry Potter until Mrs. Rowling wrote about him. This prequeling storyline is obviously not only about Newt Scamander and Gellert Grindelwald, it is also about Credence Barebone, his origin’s mystery and whatever will become of him. And the titles would be more in the Harry Potte heritage.
Reason two: the crimes
So it is “The Crimes of Grindelwald”. Having heard about this powerful black magician this title is indeed luring. At least to me. Then again after seeing the movie I have to ask: What crimes?
There have been some deaths, that’s right. But Grindelwald has not even started to commit crimes. He longs to rule the world and claims to do it for the whole worlds sake. As a seer he even shows his followers, what will come, if he doesn’t get the rule. Things which indeed DID come in the 1940s. Grindelwald showed himself as a dangerous and ambitious man. But the crimes? Have not been there. The whole tale is just starting up. So the better title would probably be “The Rise of Grindelwald”, for that is, what the story is telling. As the lines were clear from the beginning in the Harry Potter stories, “The Crimes of Grindelwald” is still drawing those lines. All that is known at the beginning of the movie, is that Gellert Grindelwald is the villain. He is still gathering his forces. People are still taking sides. Grindelwalds true crimes, I strongly believe, are still to be seen.
Revalations and the breaking of the canon
Even after the first “Fantastic Beasts” movie we don’t know all to much. We know things vital to the understanding of “The Crimes of Grindelwald”, but not really much.
Even at the beginning of part two we don’t know all to much. We learn, that Newt Scamander is forbidden to leave Great Britain because of his involvement in the events in New York. We learn, that Albus Dumbledore is Grindelwald’s enemy but that he cannot fight him, because he is under observation by higher authorities as it seems.
But still there is a lot to be revealed and many of those revalations are connected to the mystery of Credence Barebone.
It starts with Leta LeStrange, the betrothed of Theseus Scamader, Newt’s brother. During the story Crendence is “revealed” as possibly Leta’s lost brother. It continues with Nagini, seemingly Credence’s love interest. And yes, it is the same Nagini, that is seen in the shape of a serpent at Lord Voldemorts side. It might be some hint to Mr. Barebone’s true origin.
It is revealed, what we all know: Albus Dumbledore is gay. Admirably the world of witches and wizards has no problem with that fact.
And finally Credence Barebone’s true origin is revealed at the end. And this revalation seems a bit of a problem to me. The revalation itself, not Mr. Barebone’s origin.
No, I won’t tell you, who Credence truely is. If you want to know it, watch the movie. Or ask the search engine of your choice. But I think, the revalation comes to early. It is a kind of an “I am your father” moment, but it comes quite at the beginning of the whole story. When Vader told Luke, that Luke is Vaders son, it was at the climax of the story, right in the middle of a trilogy. The Fantastic Beast but are a pentalogy, so I think the revalation would better be placed in Part 3 or Part 4.
Still Mrs. Rowling might surprise us with the ongoing story and it might proove right, to tell us the truth now.
Did you know, by the way, where Dumbledore has got his phoenix? He hasn’t got the bird already. But the phoenix is connected to the Dumbledore family. And Dumbledore is old, though he’s already teaching at Hogwarts in 1927. But that is already known.
Though with the year comes the breaking of the canon.
I am sure, that it is difficult to keep every detail in mind, when writing a story. But I think, that some facts one should have in mind or should at least research. Nevertheless Minerva McGonagall was teaching at Hogwarts in 1927. But Mrs. Rowling herself revealed Mrs. McGonagall’s year of birth in an interview in 2000: Minerva was born in 1919. I personally doubt, that an 8 year old is teaching, when the age to enter the school as a student is 11.
Having that break of the canon in mind, one could get some idea about Credence, especially with his relationship to Nagini. A thing, that could be played with before telling the audience the truth. Minerva McGonagall already teaching in 1927 (making her older than she was assumed) could be a key to somebody else already living in this time.
Then again the teacher was only referred as “Mrs. McGonagall” by Dumbledore. She is listed at IMDB as Minerva, but she could be as well Minerva’s mother or aunt according to the movie’s context.
Another person, that seemed (to me) to break the canon, was Nicolas Flamel. I admit, there was not much known about him except that he has made the Philosopher’s Stone. But with exactly this Flamel has always been an alchemist to me (like the true Nicolas Flamel), not a wizard. Even though he is shown as a quite mighty (though a bit rusted) wizard. But then why not? There’s not much known about him until now.
So, how is the movie at all?
At the beginning I mentioned the wave of sequels, prequels, prequel-sequels, reboots and spin offs, that’s flooding the cinemas. “The Crimes of Grindelwald” is no exception. And as most spin off presequels (That’s not a real word, is it?) it has the same problems.
“The Crimes of Grindelwald” are nothing more and nothing less than modern cinema. I have seen worse, I’ll admit that. But the Potter movies have had a denser story (though even those lacked a bit of what was told in the books, but that’s normal).
As I said, there was a bit to much revealed at this time though I might be prooved wrong with this opinion. Then again the story did not show all to much about the persons involved in the events. Who is that Gellert Grindelwald except the villain and former love interest of Dumbledore? Who is Leta LeStrange except some relative of Bellatrix LeStrange’s husband (Bellatrix was a born Black as we know from “The Order of Phoenix”)? What relationship had Dumbledore exactly with Grindelwald?
Even the magic itself had been a bit short. Some dealdy curses, the revalation of some vestigia (yes, the spell contained the word “vestigia”, that Ben Aaronovitch uses in his books for the remnants of magic), and a quite short final battle.
Actually that lack of magical action is not the problem itself. It could have been the story of Grindelwald’s rise and of the investigation of his deeds. At the end the villain could simple have escaped his pursuers. But the story is jumping from one place to the next to give the audience an optical spectacle. Less spectacle and more character developement would have done good. So the spectacle could be saved for the final battle at the end of the pentalogy.
Even though I would not tell you to leave the film out. The fans of Mrs. Rowling wouldn’t listen to me anyway and the movie is not that bad. You simply should not have to great expectations. Take a large drink and a bucket of pop corn and you’ll be fine.
And as I mentioned the next movies might well surprise us. Where the Potter movies are a bit independant from each other (independant enough, at least, that you don’t miss to much by watching Part 3 without having seen Part 2), it is most likely, that you will need what had been told in “The Crimes of Grindelwald” to understand the next three movies.
And even if you missed it on the big screen: “The Crimes of Grindelwald” will be available on DVD and BluRay in April 2019. So it’s not that long to wait.
|Story:||(3.5 / 5)|
|Visual:||(4.0 / 5)|
|Pop corn factor:||(3.8 / 5)|
|Average:||(3.8 / 5)|