By Michael Nacey ’19
The Harry Potter universe is a curious thing. It expands faster than our own galaxy, but with an unshakeable urge to break its laws and physics and stretch any paper-thin reference in the Harry Potter books into franchises. Therefore, despite its distinct lack of Harry Potter, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald has come to give you a monthly dose of popcorn.
At your showing of Fantastic Beasts, you will have fun. The spells are dazzling, and the beasts are fantastic. Eddie Redmayne is a fascinating reversal of a franchise protagonist as Newt Scamander. There are plenty of references to Harry Potter. For instance, Albus Dumbledore, defense against the dark arts teacher, appears to set up a later movie. Overall, however, it’s a shaky movie. Think too much and you’ll need to obliviate yourself.
Here are some reasons why. Scamander going to Paris to stop Grindelwald (you’re standard, weird, old Johnny Depp) is the main plotline. But there’s also Credence (Ezra Miller), who wants to find out where he really came from with his might-morphing friend Nagini (Claudia Kim). And there’s Newt’s love interest Tina (Katherine Waterson), who thinks Newt is engaged to his old friend Leta Lestrange (Zoe Kravitz), who is dealing with some things from the past. Then there’s Grindelwald, who is in Paris for Hitler-parodies and to find Credence. And there’s Newt’s friends Jacob (Dan Fogler) and Queenie (Alison Sudol), two Americans who get lost in Paris. And Hogwarts is there too. And Nicolas Flamel, for some reason. Essentially, there are way too many subplots in this movie. It gets confusing.
As a movie in a franchise, The Crimes of Grindelwald is limited by what a movie like Avengers: Age of Ultron was. Both movies had to build on a previous film and set up the next one, which makes plot suffer. Characters appear to please the audience, but only function as setups for future movies, and plots get crowded together because of the time constraints. What both of these movies used as their solutions are to pack in as many easter-eggs as possible. So far, that strategy seems to work. If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you’ll have a lot to talk about after seeing this movie, and you’ll love watching it. If you’re not, you’ll be confused, but there will be magical beasts in front of your eyes and some hidden messages to ponder if you pick them up (those Hitler-parodies aren’t random). The Crimes of Grindelwald isn’t the gateway to becoming a Harry Potter fan, but it does sufficiently serve those who have already joined the worldwide wizarding family.