The Crimes of Grindelwald Review

As an avid lover of the Harry Potter franchise, I'm not sure how to review the latest installment of the prequel, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. Of course, I went into the movie wanting to love it. And in many ways, I did love it. Yet something about the film left me wanting more from J.K. Rowling.

Just as a heads up—the rest of this review may have minor spoilers for the movie.

J.K. Rowling has disappointed many fans in recent years due to her tokenism and some problematic elements of her stories. Readers are tired of Rowling insisting that the series has representation after the fact, because representation that isn’t clear in the original stories is not worthwhile representation. One of the most notable instances of this was Rowling telling her audience that she had always written Dumbledore as a gay man—something that was never mentioned in the original Harry Potter books. Now, Rowling is releasing a series that delves deeper into the life of the mysterious Hogwarts headmaster, and fans are clamoring for the details on his sexuality that were never provided in Harry Potter. But J.K. Rowling continues to ignore the subject.

It isn’t just this disappointment that makes me waver on the new Fantastic Beasts installment. The first movie was everything I wanted it to be, but the second left more to be desired. Rather than being a stand-alone film, it felt more like a filler between the first movie and what is coming next. Many new characters were introduced, and their stories were not focused on in this film. Notably, the character of Nagini was introduced at a circus side-show, revealing that the notorious companion and horcrux of Voldemort was a maledictus. A wizard woman born with a blood-curse that will eventually doom her to life as a giant snake, Nagini’s character barely speaks a line in the new film. It is clear to fans of the original series that the character will become important later, but her screen time in The Crimes of Grindelwald is wasted.

In The Crimes of Grindelwald, fans are presented with the familiar allegory to Hitler and WWII. The rise of Voldemort and his genocidal agenda had allusions to Nazi Germany, and in Fantastic Beasts, Grindelwald and his followers are portrayed in the same way. At one point in the film, Grindelwald shows a crowd of his followers images of WWII, telling them that it will be their future if wizards keep allowing themselves to be put down by non-wizards. This allegory was impactful in the original series, but seems tired in Fantastic Beasts. The audience knows that WWII will happen whether Grindelwald is stopped or not, and they know that Grindelwald’s ideas will return in Voldemort. Having the villainous motivation of Grindelwald be identical to the motivation of Voldemort wastes an opportunity to bring in any other kind of allegory to the story.

Despite these issues, I still enjoyed The Crimes of Grindelwald. As a long time Harry Potter fan, I learned things from the movie that explain old questions. It’s not that I thought The Crimes of Grindelwald was a bad movie—it is just that I have come to expect so much more from the franchise. There are plans to make a total of five Fantastic Beasts films, so we can only hope that J.K. Rowling listens to fan comments and improves the next installment, which will likely be released in 2020.