Spoilers ahead for The Crimes of Grindelwald and the rest of the Harry Potter canon.
C: I expected to like this movie. The first one left me with a lot of questions, but it was charming and pretty and cool. So despite the ominous Rotten Tomatoes score, we went to the theater on Thursday night with hopes pretty high. Critics, after all, aren’t always fans, so if this movie was going to be a bunch of complicated set-up for a sequel, that isn’t necessarily something that I, as a fan, would actually mind.
And for the first hour or more, I thought, “Hey, this isn’t so bad. What’s all the negative press about?”
E: Agreed. There were plenty of things to like, or at least to intrigue us.
C: But the final act. Dear heavens, that final act. Did anything that happened or was revealed in the last half hour or so of the movie make logical or emotional or canonical sense?
E: You prepared us to be worried when we went two days later, but man. A LOT of issues came up in our family debrief after the movie, which we’ve condensed below.
C: Let’s go to the list!
- So let me get this straight. Mr. Lestrange was the kind of guy who could Imperius a lady from a rich, powerful wizard family and waltz off with her without anybody stopping him, but he planned to willingly gave his baby son — the only person he ever loved — to a child-abusing, magic-hating, lower-class American Muggle woman?
- Newt is the only person who can stop Grindelwald’s plan, according to Dumbledore. Why? He does not actually succeed, and no one should be surprised, because he is a reticent, pacifist zoologist with powers and skills that are not even a little bit relevant to international politics. (I really like Newt. Just saying.)
- Was Newt unrequitedly in love with Leta Lestrange, or was Leta unrequitely in love with Newt? You don’t know, do you? Given how long the movie spends on their backstory, and the fact that their arc (“arc”) is now over thanks to the ending, why don’t we actually get to understand what their deal was?
- Speaking of Leta, why introduce an appealing new character, spend a bunch of time developing her, and then give her what should have been a classic “she sacrificed herself to save the group” death, without actually having her save the group? Yeah, she protects Newt and his brother from that one particular gust of colorful flame, but that’s about all her death accomplishes. It’s pointless, and not in a philosophical way — just a bad-writing way. She had far too much potential to be wasted like that.
- Supposedly, Grindelwald’s plan is to win followers by wooing the Parisians to his cause by (1) contriving to make it seem that Aurors are violent while he is peaceful, (2) scaring them with prophetic images of WWII and claiming he stands for peace and order, and (3) pretending he doesn’t actually wish harm to Muggles. He then follows this up by immediately attempting to destroy the city of Paris. Had he not been stopped, he would have proved himself violent, killed a ton of Muggles, and killed most of his new followers in the city. So… great plan! It’s almost like Newt and company did him a favor by saving the city, so he can go on winning hearts and minds.
- Queenie becoming his minion was well-telegraphed, but not even the tiniest bit believable.
- And why does anyone go for him at all? He’s not charming. He doesn’t seem trustworthy. He’s also certainly not the remarkably handsome Grindelwald described in Deathly Hallows. Johnny Depp is well known for his convoluted process of creating characters in wardrobe, but someone should have held him to canon. (The faux mismatched eyes are incredibly distracting — and frankly, Colin Farrell was far more magnetic and seductive.) I know great dictators don’t have to be lookers, but Rowling’s books have kind of a problem with making the good people conventionally good-looking and marking the bad people with stigmatized physical traits, so I was a fan of her not doing that for once with Grindelwald in the books. Not a good change.
- How does the woman who tore the guts out of the concept of “The Chosen One” in her book series — by revealing that the person to defeat Voldemort could as easily have been Neville Longbottom as Harry Potter, based solely on Voldemort’s apparently arbitrary choices — write a movie with the message that It Takes A Dumbledore To Kill A Dumbledore? Seriously, what’s with all the long-losts and heredity and power-of-bloodlines stuff in this script? It’s like Rowling got so into writing Grindelwald that she bought into his creeptastic philosophy.
- Also, I know that he’s a psychotic serial murderer trying to take over the world, but I hate that Grindelwald is so cold-blooded about trying to take out Dumbledore. If there was ever going to be depth to his character, it could have been there, and instead he’s a cardboard villain.
- Albus Dumbledore, who was born either in the 1880s or 1840s according to different statements by Rowling, has a brother who is still a “boy” in 1927. This is highly improbable even before you consider that Albus’s dad went to prison for life when he was a kid, and his mom died when Albus was a very young man.
- Speaking of confusing timeline issues, the whole Unbreakable Vow bit feels unnecessarily muddled. What happens to someone (in this case Yusef Kama) when they can’t fulfill that vow due to circumstances beyond their control? In other words, if Kama will die if he doesn’t kill Corvus, why didn’t he die when Corvus drowned? Did the spell release him, not caring who did the killing, but without him knowing he’d been released? Does the spell keep track of these things? I’m also bothered by his supposedly telltale scarred hands — a feature of the spell unseen in the only other Unbreakable Vower known to us, Severus Snape. None of this feels consistent or well thought through, something that pains us even to think about Ms. Rowling.
- Obscurials are supposedly one of the rarest things in the magical world. Ariana Dumbledore and Aurelius Dumbledore are both Obscurials. Sure.
Okay, so maybe we lied in the title and this isn’t a complete list, just a bunch of things that particularly drove us crazy. Or is it? You decide…