By CHRISTINA QUACH
“The time is coming, Newt…when you’re going to have to pick a side.”
When the fate of the world is in the hands of Gellert Grindelwald, an evil criminal who seeks to overthrow the balance of the wizarding world, Albus Dumbledore recruits Newt Scamander, one of his former students, to help stop pure-blooded wizards from taking over. With some tricks—bowtruckles and nifflers to be precise—up his sleeves, Newt goes to Paris to protect Credence Barebones, an obscurial (a young wizard who develops dark magic after suppressing their magic from abuse at a young age), from being corrupted by Grindelwald’s influence. Accompanied by some friends, Newt attempts to thwart Grindelwald’s plans, unaware of the serious threat that may lie ahead.
Thanks to David Yates, the director who also participated in the Harry Potter franchise, Fantastic Beasts manages to re-spark the whimsical atmosphere the Harry Potter films had, but it comes at a price. In an effort to link these two franchises, Fantastic Beasts constantly references old characters in an attempt to create a sense of nostalgia. While these references may be exciting to fans, it is easy for non-fans to be lost in a maze of bewilderment. In other words, it’s almost as if you need to be a die-hard fanatic in order to understand and enjoy many aspects of the film. Essentially, in an attempt to connect Fantastic Beasts to Harry Potter, the film subsequently disconnects the viewers from the what the movie is supposed to be about: cute animal-like things with a dash of heroism and a side of mortal peril.
Additionally, for a film to have a title containing the phrase, “fantastic beasts,” there is certainly a lack of them. Rather than having a plethora of magical creatures, Fantastic Beasts tries to focus more on introducing secondary characters, but there are simply way too many characters that muddle up the plot.
Moreover, while J.K Rowling confidently tweets about Dumbledore’s sexuality, she sure is afraid to delve deeper into it in the actual films. After claiming that “Dumbledore was gay all along,” the film suppresses his supposed love line that he used to have with Grindelwald. In fact, had Rowling not tweeted the fact in the first place, nobody would have noticed these so-called hints. Given the time period that Fantastic Beasts is set in (1920s), it is understandable that their relationship was hidden, but the line between lovers and merely passionate friends is blurred. Dumbledore and Grindelwald’s relationship was intended to be an integral part of the film, but it is now devolved into a possible theory for fans to latch on to.
Similarly, it is almost as if the film focuses more on the love lines instead of properly setting up the ending. Rather than neatly closing off the film, Fantastic Beasts does a complete 180 that may somewhat be whiplash-inducing. Simply put, there is a massive cliffhanger that could have been introduced better instead of it seeming like a slap on the face.
Despite the countless cons throughout the film, Fantastic Beasts is not necessarily a “bad movie.” Contrary to its Rotten Tomatoes score, The Crimes of Grindelwald is certainly a step up from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
For one, the romance is more developed. From Jacob and Queenie’s forbidden love to Newt’s infatuation with Tina Goldstein, it is easy to understand why these characters love each other as opposed to just accepting it at face value. It’s not merely the romance either, but the relationships that some of the characters have with each other are simply adorable—adorable enough to make grown adults audibly “aww” in theaters.
Not only are the character dynamics more developed, but, many of the characters receive an overlying arc that doesn’t seem either rushed or disingenuous. Take Dumbledore, for instance. In Harry Potter, he only acts as an oddly long-bearded mentor, but in Fantastic Beasts, he gains more depth. He reveals his most vulnerable side, he talks about his family and his deepest regrets and, most importantly, he has a sense of humor. All of these aspects paint Dumbledore in a new light: he’s more than what he appeared to be and it’s exciting to try to figure him out.
At the same time, Fantastic Beasts is arguably one of the best visually appealing films of the year. While this may seem like an exaggeration, the creatures’ CGI (computer-generated images) and the fast-paced chase scenes meld together to create a perfect combination of a whimsical and suspenseful ambiance, an odd combination when you think about it, but it somehow works.
Ultimately, while Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald did have a few bumps in the road, the movie delivered more than what meets the eye, so if you want to watch a fantastic movie, you know where to find it.