The First 18 Minutes of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindlewald
Hey everyone, I hope your quarantine is going successfully and safely. I've watched a ton of movies these last 5 months, and I'll hopefully get around to reviewing them soon. Here's a short one filled with anger!
So I was a huge fan of Harry Potter when I was younger. I still enjoy it, but it's been a while since I've read the books or seen the movies (can still pass most of those "hardest Harry Potter quiz ever" things though, so I haven't lost it). I even joined band for a couple years in high school so I could go to Harry Potter world in Universal and spend a ton of money. I will always love this series, but I do not like the Fantastic Beasts series, especially The Crimes of Grindlewald.
I saw TCoG on opening day in theaters, and was hopeful that I would love it, and it would redeem an otherwise bland franchise. I did not enjoy this movie, and did not try to watch it again until tonight. I got 18 minutes and 46 seconds into it before I gave up, hoping the next movie might be better somehow. I say next instead of last because apparently there are at least five movies planned for these funky 1920s magic users.
Let's start with the opening scene, where Grindlewald pulls off an *crazy* escape from custody, while he's being transferred from a jail cell in the Empire State Building in NYC to the Ministry of Magic in London. I do understand that they're doing this to give him time to build his army and work his magic. However, I would've preferred it if he was leading the "resistance" from inside that cell, or by using Polyjuice Potion, as he was already doing to pretend to be his guard, Abernathy. They could've started this movie earlier in his jail sentence, as the President of Magical Affairs stated he had been in prison for at least six months. For me, seeing him recruit Credence, his key to winning the war, from a prison cell halfway across the world, would've been much cooler and impressive as a Villian Move than breaking out with a little Polyjuice Potion. Obviously, JK Rowling and Steve Kloves are not calling me up to ask what I personally want in these movies, and writing 5 feature length films from a book listing out how dangerous animals are is quite difficult. This is just what I would've preferred.
I stopped at 18 minutes and 46 seconds because of the obvious callbacks to the original Harry Potter series. Now, I love a good easter egg, and that's one of the reasons I like franchises. However, I felt these were ridiculously obvious callbacks to anyone who has seen the movies a couple times. The first one I noticed was when Grindlewald's people kill two parents by breaking into their house and immediately casting Avada Kedavra, and look at that, there's a one year old boy in the other room who's now an orphan. I wonder where else I've seen a power-hungry wizard with a bad hairline intent on positioning pure-blood wizards at the top in the new world he will create after a war with all who don't agree with him, and wasting Muggle lives because they don't matter to him. That sounds oddly familiar...
As soon as I got over that being ripped directly from Harry Potter's origin story and sort of cheapening his drive for rightful vengence and his place as the hero of the wizarding world by copying the same thing in a cashgrab franchise, another rip off happened, the one that made me turn off the movie for good. While Newt, the loveably awkward main character, is talking to the significantly younger Dumbledore (one that has a much lamer beard), Dumbledore says in his family, phoenixes are said to show up whenever a Dumbledore needs one, and his grandfather's flew off after he died. While this is a sweet homage to Fawkes, Dumbledore's own phoenix, and makes the scene in Half Blood Prince when Fawkes flies into the sunset after Dumbledore's death much sweeter, it tears more lore from the original series. In Chamber of Secrets, Dumbledore tells Harry that "the sword of Gryffindor will only present itself to a true Gryffindor". By saying the same thing, almost verbatim, to Newt in TCoG, it once again takes away from how special Harry and Neville are to be worthy of the sword of Godric Gryffindor. How many other things can you get in the wizarding world just from being "worthy" by certain standards? Harry and Neville wielding the sword were incredibly important moments, and it just really annoys me that they copy that exact phrase to give a dumb reason for Dumbledore to send Newt to New York in search of a Thunderbird in the previous movie. It seems like a throwaway line, but it shouldn't be for something originally so important and special.
Since I said I like easter eggs, but also hate these ones enough to not continue the movie, I'll say exactly what sort of easter eggs that I would've enjoyed. One of those is that Harry's great grandfather, Henry Potter, served on the high wizarding council, or Wizengamot, until 1921. I would've loved to see him brought in as a sort of cameo by someone like Dumbledore, as a way to find or catch Grindlewald. Additionally, Fleamont Potter, Harry's paternal grandfather, was very popular in 1926, when this movie is set, for his invention of Sleekeazy's Hair Potion, which is referenced in the books. I think it would have been hilarious to see Fleamont in a scene somewhere try to sell Newt or Jacob some of this product. While his product was mentioned in a magazine, I would love to see the family of Harry in more than just flashbacks.
In summary, I hate cheap throwbacks, and this movie. I will be seeing the next movies in this series, if movie theaters ever open again, and hope it gets better after this. Stay safe everyone, and remember to wear your darn masks!
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