Fantastic Beasts and where to find the plot?


graphic by Emily Reed

Fantastic Beasts and The Crimes of Grindelwald disappoints.

by Emily Reed, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Fantastic Beasts and The Crimes of Grindelwald is a potion brewed incorrectly; it bubbles up over the sides of the cauldron with special effects but lacks cohesion as a whole. Specifically, the movie’s plot is a mess of new characters, loose ends, and uneven character progression that is altogether frustrating given the amount of potential this film had with the author J.K. Rowling herself, and a slew of A-list actors including Eddie Redmayne, Johnny Depp, and Zoe Kravitz.

Leta Lestrange (Zoe Kravitz), Theseus Scamander (Callum Turner), and Arnold Guzman (Cornell John) are completely new characters to the Fantastic Beasts/Harry Potter franchise and young Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law), Grindelwald (Johnny Depp), Nagini (Claudia Kim), and Nicolas Flamel (Brontis Jodorowsky) are recognized briefly in the Harry Potter novels but this is their first time appearing in the Fantastic Beasts franchise. In total, there are seven new characters in Fantastic Beasts and The Crimes of Grindelwald along with the five existing main characters from the previous film. Developing 12 characters is an over ambitious goal for a two hour film and one that the film didn’t meet.

The seven new characters received the bulk of the development while the existing five characters were mostly ignored (with the exception of the Fantastic Beasts franchise’s protagonist Newt Scamander). This uneven development brings us to another problem: plot. Because there were so many new characters, the plot went by the wayside. This film did not successfully tell a story from beginning to end and, instead, provided us with numerous character backstories and family trees that fit into the larger Fantastic Beasts universe.

This lack of plot is unexpected from J.K. Rowling who in her Harry Potter series excelled at writing each novel as a stand alone story and a book apart of a larger story arc. Fantastic Beasts and The Crimes of Grindelwald is a film that exists only as a part of a larger story and is almost impossible to understand without watching the previous film and at least the first and last Harry Potter movies.

Even though this film is below average and worse than the first Fantastic Beasts, why will fans return to theaters for the third installment of the five-part series? The simple answer is that although the films are average, they stir up nostalgia for the childhood we’d like to revisit.

For example, the British Ministry of Magic goes back to Hogwarts to find Dumbledore who is teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts and happens to be in the middle of the same lesson about bogarts that Professor Remus Lupin taught in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Along with the comforting familiarity of the lesson, the Hogwarts exterior shots and interior scenes were filmed in Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire, England, which was the same location for Hogwarts in all of the Harry Potter films. Additionally, the scenes at Hogwarts are accompanied by a score from James Newton Howard that sounds eerily similar to the compositions from the Harry Potter films .

These moments of nostalgia are what keeps Harry Potter fans hanging on and hoping that these movies just might get better. However, I left the theatre concerned about the timeline of the Fantastic Beasts movies that’s supposed to elapse 19 years over the course of five movies. The first and second installment take place over three months at the beginning of the 19-year timeline; how will J.K. Rowling explain a little over 18 years in the remaining three movies?

Even though I haven’t enjoyed the first two movies and don’t have much hope for the future of the series, I will still be sitting in the one of the first four rows on opening weekend to witness the lavish special effects and wave of nostalgia that is Fantastic Beasts.