I went to see the film Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindlewald the week it came out, and had purchased the script book on release day, but I put off actually reading the screenplay until today.
Now I am a massive Harry Potter fan, and I love the Wizarding World generally. I loved the original Fantastic Beasts film, but I don’t feel like this film/book fits in with what was established in the first film.
If you haven’t read the screenplay or seen the film, please be warned that there will be spoilers in this review.
The film starts with Grindlewald being transferred to Europe to answer for his crimes. Grindlewald of course escapes and thus begins one of the most confusing plots I’ve ever experienced.
So, Newt is in the Ministry of Magic trying to get clearance to travel internationally again. Newt’s brother Theseus works for the Ministry, and heads the Auror department, he begs Newt to behave himself in this meeting.
As an aside, we also meet Leta LeStrange, Newts ex-best-friend or lover (its not really clear) and Theseus’s fiancee. It’s clear there are still romantic feelings between Newt and Leta.
Shockingly Newts request is denied – the Ministry say that he can travel if he takes a job in the Auror department. Newt says he won’t take sides, and he doesn’t think Credence (The Obscurus) should be killed.
Newt then meets Dumbledore, it turns out that Dumbledore asked Newt to go to New York in the previous film, and the Ministry suspect this, which is why he isn’t allowed to travel. Okaaay.
Dumbledore and Grindlewald were very close when at school, and as such Dumbledore has said he cannot/will not fight him. This makes the Ministry suspicious.
Dumbledore says there is a legend that a Phoenix will show up whenever a Dumbledore is in need. Does this mean we’ll see Fawkes?
Queenie shows up in Newt’s flat with a bewitched Jacob in tow. He remembers the events from the last film because you can’t obliviate happy memories. Wow JK – Hermione’s parents clearly loved her a lot.
It turns out that Jacob has been refusing to marry Queenie because of the laws against muggle-wizard marriage. Jacob doesn’t want Queenie to come to any harm, so she put a spell on him.
When Newt releases Jacob, he and Queenie have words and she disapparates.
Jacob and Newt decide to travel to Paris to try and find Credence, Queenie and Tina (who has also gone to Paris to find the Obscurus). Tina also thinks Newt is engaged to Leta, because of a mistake in a gossip magazine and they have fallen out. Fun.
When they get to Paris, Tina has already made headway in finding Credence, who has joined a wizard circus. He has befriended or fallen in love with a Maledictus, Nagini. This felt a bit too forced, and a bit too “Hey kids!” wink-nudge , “she was in Harry Potter!”
As Tina and the other aurors bear down on Credence, he escapes the circus, making a huge scene and releasing lots of exotic animals. He runs off with Nagini.
Tina meets Kama, who is also looking for Credence and says it’s because they are distantly related. He asks Tina if Credence would be allowed to live if there was proof of who he was, and offers to show her the proof.
Meanwhile Grindlewald has shown up in Paris, and his minions kill a family so that they can use their house as headquarters. One of his minions makes a snide comment about destroying muggles and Grindlewald offers a mild reproof, not for thinking this is acceptable behaviour, but merely for expressing said opinion aloud.
Somehow one of Grindlewald’s lackeys manages to get to Queenie, who had come to Paris to find her sister, but became lost. She is taken to Grindlewald who tells her that all he wants is freedom for magicians and muggles. This is all that was needed to make Queenie change sides. Most abrupt and random example of a character going dark-side I’ve ever seen. Bizzare.
Newt gets to the circus area with Jacob and finds the trail for Tina using some of his creature friends. They meet Kama who says he’ll take them to Tina, whom he has imprisoned in the sewers. It’s a trap and Newt is also captured, but then instantly freed by Picket his Bowtruckle, whilst Kama spasms on the floor. Because parasites.
Watching the film I was baffled by Kama’ s decision to capture Tina and then Newt. It just seemed like a convenient way to get them back together.
They take Kama to a safehouse Dumbledore told Newt about, owned by Nicolas Flamel – yes, he of the Philosopher’s Stone.
When Leta and Newt were at school there was a rumour that she had murdered her baby brother. The latest theories about Credence – believed by Kama, is that Credence is the lost LeStrange child. Kama is Leta’s older half brother, as their mother was bewitched away from his dad by Leta’s father, and then died giving birth to Leta. Credence was supposedly born to the next wife after Leta’s mum. Confused?
In the memory of Hogwarts, Newt is nursing an injured raven. In the present day, Credence is also nursing an injured bird when GW goes to try and convince him to join the cause
Newt and Tina decide to go to the French ministry to seek proof of who Credence actually is. Credence and Nagini go to find the woman listed as his birth mother, and find an old half elf, Irma, who says she worked for his mother. An auror sent by the Ministry kills Irma, apparently when he misses Credence, but shock horror he is working for Grindelwald and did it on purpose.
At the French Ministry Newt uses polyjuice to go through security disguised as his brother. He and Tina try to get to the LeStrange files to find records about Credence, but Leta arrives just as they get the right shelf. Newt explains that Leta is Theseus’s fiancee, so all is okay there.
Leta’s family tree has been moved to her family’s tomb in a local cemetery. The three escape the Ministry on one of Newt’s beasts after some hijinx involving a niffler and the Ministry’s security ghost cats.
Kama wakes up at Flamel’s house and escapes. Flamel shows Jacob a vision of Queenie in the cemetery, in a crystal ball and Jacob runs off to find her. Flamel feebly shouts not to go, as it will cause problems and people will die. Rightio.
At the cemetery Leta, Newt, Credence, Tina and Kama all converge to look at Leta’s family tree, which only records males. The ladies are only present as flowers on the tree. Leta’s father sent her and her brother Corvus to France on a ship, because reasons, and the baby wouldn’t stop crying. Irma was their servant and posed as their grandmother. Leta got proper annoyed with her brother’s crying, so she switched him with another baby lying in a nearby cot.
The ship was then attacked or randomly started sinking (I can’t remember which) and the mother or aunt of the other baby came in to the cabin, took Corvus and got into a lifeboat which was engulfed by the waves. Baby Corvus drowned.
No one knows who the other baby is. It doesn’t explain how Irma knows Corvus was dead and that the baby she had was different, if this was discovered by LeStrange or how he dealt with the matter. Why was Leta estranged from fake Corvus?
Anyhoo, Irma continued to look after the baby, and then passed it to the mad woman from the first film who hated witches.
Grindlewald shows up at the cemetery to hold a rally. Dumbledore previously warned Theseus not to attack those attending, as it would make matters worse.
Queenie is at the rally, and Jacob finds her, but is worried that she wants to listen to GW’s speech. Tina and Newt come to the conclusion that the whole thing was a trap, the family tree etc leading them all to this meeting for reasons.
The Aurors show up, and despite Theseus’s telling them not to, they attack a woman acting under GW’s influence, thus confirming that the Ministry is evil and GW is right. He does this whole speech about how muggles aren’t inferior, just different and that if he doesn’t take control of them all catastrophe will strike again. Using a weird magician hookah skull, he shows the audience a war, with machine guns and nuclear weapons. He kind of slips up a bit and lets his nice mask slide, and is very clearly enjoying the idea of showing the muggles who is boss.
The audience flee to spread the word that GW is in, and the Ministry is out, when GW creates black fire around his platform, calling for loyal followers to join him. Everyone else will die. Some aurors panic and join him. Queenie tries to convince Jacob that GW wants what they want, but he is not convinced so she leaves him and takes GW’s hand.
The remaining few try to fight GW but he is too strong. Leta distracts him, tells Theseus and/or Newt that she loves him, and sacrifices herself so they can escape.
Flamel then shows up, and teaches the survivors how to stop GW’s flame from engulfing the city by sticking their wands in the earth. Also Flamel looks like Donovan at the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Surely the point of the Philosopher’s Stone and immortality is that you stay healthy and youngish?! Otherwise what’s the point?!
One of the nifflers manages to get a shiny vial from GW. Newt returns this to Dumbledore, who confirms it is a vial of both his and Grindelwald’s blood from an oath they swore at school. This oath is why Dumbledore cannot fight GW. Also, he loves him. I just added that bit in but it’s sooo obvious.
Newt says he’s chosen a side.
Queenie and GW are in the alps somewhere, she tells him that Credence is very upset and to be gentle with him. GW tells Credence he is actually Aurelius Dumbledore, and that the bird he has been nursing is a phoenix. Credence’s brother will try to destroy him. Credence chanels his power for the first time and breaks a window. The chick turns into a Phoenix and flies off through the window.
My overall emotion when watching this film, and to a slightly lesser extent reading the screenplay, was confusion. I didn’t really know what was going on. Some of the connections seemed very far fetched. I still don’t know what the point of thinking Credence was Leta’s brother for much of the film was. The sub-plot with her half brother Kama was even more confusing. Why did Kama kidnap Tina? What was the point?
Where were the Fantastic Beasts? Tonally this was like going from Philosopher’s Stone straight to the Half-Blood Prince. It was super dark. Also, cinematically it was very dark. I struggled to make out what was going on, on the screen, in some places.
I don’t think it should be part of the Fantastic Beasts series, as it wasn’t really about them. They were incidental. I don’t even think this film’s subtitle The Crimes of Grindlewald was appropriate, as he doesn’t really do much. GW does a lot of monologuing, and gets his lackeys to do things for him, with a slight gesture. That’s about it.
There was no character development for any of the characters. Johnny Depp does a brilliant impression of a drunk Eddie Izzard, that’s about it. I don’t blame him, he doesn’t seem to have had much to work with…
The only real growth was with Queenie, but it just came out of nowhere. Also, she’s telepathic? Could she not read GW’s thoughts and know he just wanted to kill muggles. I just don’t understand this film. At all.
I feel like it would have been better named the Lure of Grindlewald or How Grindlewald talks People into Genecide. The movie would’ve been much better if more time was spent developing the idea of Grindlewald’s powers of persuasion. Slowly gathering followers, convincing people. I don’t know.
I gave the screenplay/film 3 out of 5 stars. It was entertaining, there were glimpses of Fantastic Beasts and the screenplay book is very pretty. It just didn’t make sense to me. Maybe The next film will tie up the loose ends.
Let me know what you think in the comments.