Who will change the future, you ask? Apparently, J.K Rowling will.
Potterheads were in for a real treat this time – an overstuffed, haphazard treat with a plot more dizzyingly convoluted than – wait, scratch that. I don’t even have anything for comparison, to be honest. Noticed a lot of painfully canon-defying problems with the new film yourself? Too bad, it’s all Potter canon now, and there’s nothing you can do about it. I think it’s time to finally address something important – remember how I keep saying that Rowling has a knack for taking her own characters from the universe she created with such precision, and try to throw certain new information about them every now and then to make them more relevant? Well, all that was fine up till the whole “Dumbledore is gay”, or even an abomination like The Cursed Child being allowed to exist and thrown into the canon. But now it’s gotten a lot worse, and I’ll explain that in a bit.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, as they call it – wait, was a single crime of the titular character a central-focus plot point in this film? Even better, was there even a single central-focus plot point in the film at all? Let me specify – I don’t exactly hate the film. But having been an ardent Potterhead for more than 17 years now, it’s really tough to witness the sheer brutality of what’s being done to a world I absolutely love, by someone I really admired. While it may not have been a terrible cinematic outing, I won’t shy away from listing down some of my biggest problems with the film, just because I’m “expected to love everything Rowling creates”. Here goes :-
- Why the hell was Leta Lestrange in my face? The usage of those character-focused POV shots in the first 10 minutes of the film are entirely inconsistent with not just the rest of the film, but the franchise in general. And no, I wouldn’t mind if they were trying something new as long as it’s franchise-compatible, but even someone with a less than keen eye for detail would notice how off-key those thirteen odd seconds were. I take it Mr. Redmayne did not drop by the set on the particular day when those two improvised shots were taken, eh Mr. Yates?
- Umm, editing? Ah, lovely. The last time I so heavenly complained about my issues in an article regarding the characters being all over the place was when I was crazy enough to try and review a frickin’ porno. (Yeah, I actually did one of those – pretty hilarious, you should try reading it sometime. And yeah, they actually were all over the place, albeit in a slightly different context. xD) Here, it’s a lot worse. Every single subplot is bizarrely placed in a way that carries absolutely no central narrative forward – a literature structure that would work well for thriller novels, maybe – but seldom in a mainstream cinematic production such as this one. One moment you’re experiencing the unimportant backstory of Mr. Forgettable character No. 1, and suddenly you’re seeing Mr. & Miss Unimportant Characters 2 & 3 doing something completely different that will of course have nil to nada impact on the overall story later. Please.
- The Forced Prequel Curse: Did you get the Star Wars pun here? Nope? Go die, please. For the uninitiated, Mr. George Lucas made three Star Wars films between 1977 & 1983, that discussed thorough back stories for its characters. You knew that Darth Vader was once a young Jedi named Anakin Skywalker who went against his old master & friend, Obi-wan Kenobi and that’s why the story starts where it does in the first film in ’77. Knowing that, when Mr. Lucas crafted three new prequel films between 1999 & 2005, while they were hardly great films, the three fit very well in the canon and the story for the sheer value of being referenced later multiple times in the original trilogy, thereby tying the entire hexalogy into a proper saga. Whatever be the problems with those god-awful prequels, they never felt out of place. Even Rogue One (2016) told a story that was so well mentioned in the original film, that it felt like the perfect mid-prequel to the original saga. That brings me to the biggest problem with Crimes of Grindelwald – you know that Aurelius Dumbledore & Credence, both don’t exist in the Potter books or films – and there isn’t one reference for sheer payoff value later. So you already know it’s a forced character arc that will be neatly tied up in the coming three films, but will have almost negligible effect on the original Potter story – which is why the impact of that information is so minimal in our heads from the get-go. So what if he’s a Dumbledore? It was more of a ‘WTF’ moment for most fans than an ‘Oh, see. I knew it! Wow’ scenario. Almost all new information consists of forced subplots that are trying hard to tie into a universe we all know and love, just to either render it more relevant or to simply milk the cash cow further. Either way, no matter what explanation comes in the next film, you know how little impact it’ll have on the original Potter films and books, so should we really bother all that much? I honesty wouldn’t.
- Ah, Minerva. Stop messing up the canon! No, it isn’t Professor McGonagall’s mother – it is Minerva McGonagall in the flesh, if you were actually patient enough to wait and check the end credits. So the woman is born in 1935 & started teaching at Hogwarts in ’56 as per all previous information handed out to us on a silver platter of books – but let’s plant her in there in 1927. I mean, who cares if we’re breaking canon – the audiences will just go nuts seeing her on screen, and absolutely no one would even remotely think about an ounce of logic anyway, right? Yep, Rowling essentially took a leaf out of the book of every single person who believes in the dumbing down of cinema & taking its audience for fools, whilst simultaneously showcasing how much she or any of her writing assistants bothered to double-check their own facts and details before throwing additional unnecessary characters into an already overstuffed film. She’s kept mum on that so far, I’m still waiting for the day she starts responding to all the fan-raised concerns.
- What purpose did Nagini serve? No, seriously – I couldn’t count more than five scenes in the film, in which she anyways barely spoke – and hardly contributed in any way to the arc they’re trying to build up, and it pretty much boils down to some forced fan service being done in the name of God knows what! Does knowing that Nagini was a Korean-origin woman & a Maledictus enrich or contribute to your established Potter-world in any way? Would it make the entire scene where Neville chops her head off in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 be viewed in a completely new light? Do I care that she’s almost a century old woman trapped in a snake’s body by that time? Well, unless there’s more of her in the coming three films expanding her arc in this new story, this would be considered one hell of an unnecessary inclusion.
- “It didn’t work, pal!” – And of course, that’s the easiest explanation to completely and conveniently nullify the events of the previous film with no additional explanation of any kind, because – hello! We need that ‘same old Jacob’ here that audiences loved in the previous film, okay – and we’ll have him anyway we see fit, screw the audience. He might as well have said – “Hey there Newty! See, I conveniently didn’t lose my memories coz you know what? It’s a Christmas miracle!”
- A Blood-pact: Whatever the hell that is! So an unbreakable vow would have been a terrible cliched explanation too, so we’ll throw something in there to peak everyone’s interest. You said they were lovers back in 2007, and we believed it. Now when we expect to see some vulnerability from the greatest wizard of all time in terms of how his love for Grindelwald stood there to create conflict in his head in moving against the man he loved, you shy away from showcasing anything explicitly – but keeping a vague facade, you simply throw a new so-called ‘blood pact’ into the mix. Knowing that he struggled going against Grindelwald just due to the sheer magnitude of his feelings would have made the conflict so much more raw and real. But that’s okay – it’s her world. She’ll call the shots any way she wants.
- Polyjuice-Shmollyjuice: This one’s a concern I have not just for this film – but for the franchise in general. You walk into the Ministry of Magic, one of the most secure wizarding avenues in the world evading everyone who’s looking for you with the help of nothing but Polyjuice potion? Surely, the Ministry would’ve devised some way to nulify its effect, else everyone can just barge in looking like someone else and get away with whatever they want, right? Is it that easy to fool some of the most brilliant official wizards in their own headquarters? Anyways, since this was a major issue I had with the Deathly Hallows as well which takes place about 70 years later in chronology, I won’t hold this point just against Crimes of Grindelwald.
- Flamelism: Funnily enough, I went and saw the actual Nicolas Flamel’s house in Montmorency, Paris a few months back. I really admired how they got so many minor details about the streets around the place right, and while Flamel remains to be the only real character in the entire Potter saga, it definitely wasn’t an unwelcome sight, seeing Mr. Flamel finally popping up on the big screen. But you had to, HAD TO show the Philosopher’s Stone right there, didn’t you? Because of course, the audiences absolutely needed to see it in order to go – “Oh, look. LOOK! The Philosopher’s stone – now it all ties up, how lovely!” Please. The finale with him popping up to go ‘Finite’ over an unnecessary CGI fire dragon set to ruin Paris was well, not-so-awesome, exactly. And also, if Grindelwald can actually conjure a CGI beast of that magnitude that has the potential to burn an entire city down faster than Thanos can snap his fingers, then I actually wonder why Voldemort was the one considered to be the biggest baddie in the lore.
- Ah, DADA: Well, I’ll be damned if anyone can find one good reason why Dumbledore was shown teaching Defence Against the Dark Arts other than the fact that they wanted him in the Boggart scene with Newt and Leta. Now suddenly, we also know why he was never allowed to teach DADA later on, and instead switched to Transfiguration – but there isn’t a single mention or reference of anything similar for payback in the books, because that too was a new unnecessary inclusion. So we couldn’t have any other professor teaching DADA at the time because we want Dumbledore’s arc to remain central to the plot – even if the original saga never warranted this.
Again, for some people, these would be minor flaws or not flaws at all – but the reason why this is worth pointing out is because everything in the original seven books seemed so well thought-out from the beginning by Rowling, to the point that everything connected so well in the final book – and when you re-read all of them, you could find references hinting at what was about to go down six books later. We have references to Snape’s regret for Lily being mentioned in the very first Potion’s class he took in the Philosopher’s Stone, something that you wouldn’t have guessed until the very final book, but knowing how masterfully Rowling laid out these breadcrumbs along the path to enrich the entire experience and make it rewarding for us later on is something that I admire a lot. But knowing that after the seven books were completed, that she is forcefully trying to recreate the same effect, but serving us with a sea of unimportant and uninteresting characters alongside messing up details of what we already know about the world we love is a tad bit disheartening. Naturally, I’ll be going for the next three Fantastic Beasts whenever they the screens because there is a certain charm with Newt and his beasts, but it seems that some of the enchantment laid on me by Rowling throughout my childhood has been lifted as of now. While the Potter books & films will forever remain my go-to destination whenever I want a little bit of magic in my life, the Fantastic Beasts saga, at least on the basis of the two films so far will be kept far away.