Floptastic Busts: The Crimes of Greedy Producers

The Crimes of Grindelwald is an avada kedavra to the franchise

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Floptastic Busts: The Crimes of Greedy Producers

Justin Kim, (Graduated) Reporter

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The Mad Hatter, having grown sick of Underland, has come to Europe in search of Alice. Along the way he recruits Barry Allen, who’s currently on a journey of self-reflection along with Dr. Helen Cho. Meanwhile, the Danish girl and Zen go off to Paris to find their respective sweethearts captain Daniels and A Fine Frenzy, as well as to fulfill a mission from Vortigern, who may or may not be nursing a lost love with Captain Jack Sparrow.

If you have no idea what the hell I just said, then congratulations! You now know what it feels like to watch this movie!

Continuing the spinoff series that nobody asked for and nobody welcomed, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is the second installment in the Fantastic Beasts spinoff that keeps teasing the showdown between Grindelwald and Dumbledore, and I keep getting more and more confused as to why this is even called Fantastic Beasts. At least the Harry Potter movies were actually about the boy who lived; unless Dumby and Grindy are going to have an aerial dogfight on top of dragons and hippogriffs, I don’t see why the Fantastic Beasts part should have any more relevance.

To make it clear, I didn’t hate the initial Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them as much as the general consensus did. On the contrary, I liked it overall, though the rather uneven tonal contrasts between different plotlines were a bit jarring. Despite its shortcomings, I thought it did its job all right and was interested enough on where the sequel was going to take audiences next.

Now that I’ve seen the movie, I would also like to take producer J.K.Rowling and director David Yates someplace; the deepest cell in Azkaban and throw away the pen, paper, and megaphone.

The premise is this: Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) has broken out of prison and is now gathering his host of dark followers, as well as looking for Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller), who survived in the last movie. To counter this, Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) sends Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) to Paris in order to find Credence and stop whatever plans Grindelwald has for him. At the same time, Newt also is on a mission to speak to Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) and try and restore their estranged relationship, while taking along Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), who’s also in search of his own sweetheart Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol) after she ran off due to an argument about their wizard-muggle relationship. Meanwhile, Credence is on the search for his heritage, along with Nagini (Claudia Kim), a woman he met at a circus freak show. As he appears in Paris, Grindelwald, Tina, Newt all move to find him, as well as a host of British Ministry of Magic aurors, led by Theseus Scamander (Callum Turner) and his fiancee Leta Lestrange (Zoe Kravitz) and HOLY GALLOPING GARGOYLES MY HEAD IS ABOUT TO EXPLODE.

I think the initial, and main, problem of the film explains itself; there’s too much going on. Far, far too much. So many different plotlines, all with different characters and different agendas are introduced that trying to straighten it out into a coherent narrative is like trying to stop Voldemort from muggle genocide. And because all of that is squeezed into 2 hours and 13 minutes, none of them have time to properly develop.

Some of them don’t even properly carry over from the last movie. Newt and Tina may have aroused some shippers on the internet, but as far as the last movie went, they were at best close friends. Yet in this movie Newt is yearning for her like a niffler after a diamond, and Tina’s apparently jealous after she heard the false information that Newt is engaged. Look, the contrived romance subplot is unbearable enough, at least try to justify the initial romance.

Credence, with barely any explanation as to how he survived, is now traveling with Nagini, a woman cursed to transform into a snake each day – and yes, she is exactly who you think she is. But how did they meet? How did they become companions? Why is Nagini helping Credence? She seems to care for Credence a lot, but I can only infer that because the movie never gives enough time to make their relationship clear.

Who are these ministry officials chasing after Credence? I could only identify them as random white British guy #1, random white British guy #2, slightly older white British guy #3, and that’s where I lost track of which wizard was witch. Similar with Grindelwald’s followers, though there were less British people involved.

So apparently Newt had a brother, Theseus Scamander, and they have a complicated relationship with each other. But why is that, and how do they usually behave to each other? And apparently Leta Lestrange is mixed up in this Hogwarts Express wreck of a relationship as well, as she once had a thing with Newt but is now engaged to Theseus, and how many love triangles and pentagons are crammed into this film?

Who is this French auror looking for Credence, and why is he going on about looking for his relative? What’s the deal with one of Grindelwald’s supporters doubting him out of nowhere? There’s this one spy of Grindelwald among the ministry officials, but how am I supposed to tell him apart from the six other British dudes in trench coats he goes around with? Why is the film showing Newt with even more of his fantastic beasts if 90% of them are never going to brought up again? Helga Hufflepuff’s Hubbly Hairdos, my brain’s long past overheated.

What makes this unholy Berty Bott’s Every Flavor Beans trail mix of a plot even more confounding are the number of people or props that seem to be thrown in purely for the fans to gasp at. “Look!” J.K.Rowling wags her hands enthusiastically, “This is the origin story of Nagini! You always wondered where Voldemort got that snake, right? And there, it’s the mirror of Erised and Dumbledore’s seeing Grindelwald in it! Oh hey, Dumbledore’s teaching students the Ridikulus spell, remember that from The Prisoner of Azkaban? Guess what? It’s Nicholas Flamel! And he’s got the Sorcerer’s Stone! I clearly know what the fans want, right? RIGHT?!”

There’s no rising action. There’s no sense of climax. There’s no investment to the characters. There’s no buildup, no suspense, no smooth transition from one scene to another. This isn’t a story as much as it is a frankenstein of various scenes with differing plots, messages, and tones stitched together in the crudest way possible.

What’s even more infuriating is that there’s still glimmers of legitimately good stuff amongst this wreckage. Once again, Credence’s character arc, despite being brutally cut short here, is still an adequate journey for him, and is easily the story I got most invested in. The story surrounding Jacob and Queenie’s muggle-wizard relationship was also done well in conjunction with Grindelwald’s rise, and that’s one plot point that I actually would like to see in future sequels. It doesn’t hurt that Jacob, who was my favorite character in the last movie, is just as charming here as well.

Then there’s Grindelwald, and I actually don’t think he’s that bad here. Despite his miserable attempt at a Vanilla Ice impression, he carries enough charisma and composure to impress, and his ideology is something that is legitimately interesting and could have worked with more time put into it. I can at least take this guy more seriously than Voldemort, who had nothing to offer except a symphony of awkward grunts and yells and a general air of “I AM COO-COO FOR CHOCOLATE FROGS” around him.

Problem is, what good they could have done for the plot is pushed aside to make room for Newt and Tina, and it’s my not-so-humble suggestion to the producers that they permanently kick the two out of the current script. Not that the actors are at any fault, but of all the people in this movie, they are the most irrelevant, despite them supposedly being the main characters. Newt’s continued relationships with his beasts is admittedly endearing, but they have absolutely no correlation or chemistry with the rest of the movie whatsoever, and Tina’s disposable, simple as that.

And as for the ending, this has to be the most contrived series of twists and turns in the Harry Potter film series. Random familial relationships and identities are revealed and end up being more laughably convoluted than a South Korean morning drama. As for how Credence’s search for his heritage ends…it just reeks of desperate fanservice. What’s next, Newt is Dumbledore and Grindelwald’s secret gay lovechild?

This film is essentially making the same mistake as Batman v Superman, The Mummy(2017), or indeed, almost all the films out there that tried to jump-start a cinematic universe. They cram in far too many plotlines and characters into one movie in order to build foundation for a far bigger universe, only to have that foundation implode like a stack of Exploding Snap cards. They try to make a universe before making a movie.

The final push off the cliff for this movie is the fact that it’s not even technically impressive. After five of his Harry Potter universe movies, I can confidently say that I absolutely despise David Yates’ art direction. I’m having enough trouble deciphering the story as it is, but it doesn’t help that I can’t tell one dreary gray street from the twelve dozen dreary gray streets that make up this film’s setting.

The biggest enjoyment about Rowling’s wizarding world was that it was bursting with unexpected fun and various crafts at every corner. Yet these films seem intent on draining all color out of everything in the film and even worse, dimming the lights down so that I had to squint and lean forward in my seat the entire time like I was 90 years old while watching this.

“Oh,” some defenders would say, “that’s just reflecting the darker atmosphere of the stories!” To that I have two rebuttals. One, it is perfectly possible to show a dark story without limiting your color palette to gray, dark gray, and edgy darkest deathly gray; see Avengers: Infinity War if you want any proof. And two, for such a dark story, this film still has a lot of silly and comedic moments, usually with the fantastic beasts, that definitely don’t feel deserving of the drabness that plagues the rest of this film.

This is a movie about wizards and magic, for Godric’s sake, why does everything look even more boring than the real world?

That’s not even getting into the other technical aspects of the film, such as the distracting overuse of into-the-camera shots, the rather ugly doses of CGI on the beasts (and keep in mind that I am generally very forgiving of CG in films), and the poor lighting effects that completely ruined many scenes such as the opening aerial action sequence, which was honestly the only actually cool part of the whole movie.

I would try to end this on a positive note, but honestly, I just feel drained. After the criticism that the initial Fantastic Beasts received, I am baffled as to why Rowling and Yates made the same mistakes over again, only in an even greater scale this time. This is a complete travesty that proves the studio is no longer interested in bringing us actual entertainment but instead in the box office money this will bring from brand recognition. Funny how that seems to be the spreading trend nowadays.

If you are a Harry Potter series fan, you deserve far, far better than this. You deserve actual passion in the content you receive, some semblance of real fun and excitement. All this movie gives to fans and newcomers alike is the sensation of being forced to eat a handful of earwax-flavored Every Flavored Beans. Then finding out that it wasn’t earwax-flavored, but actual earwax.

(Note: If anyone else wants to do an article on this film, go ahead. This is purely written for fun.)

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