A Film Review By Mimi Anagli
Any film, or anything for that matter, attached to the Harry Potter franchise will undoubtedly be held to an unbelievably high standard. For the most part, things made in the name of Harry Potter exceed that standard with flying colors, but with the new Fantastic Beasts film series in our midst, there has been a lot of talk on how people’s expectations have and have not been met. As someone who has been a dedicated “Potterhead” for the majority of their life, I have quite a bit to say on this divide in the fandom; so, after watching the film and collecting my thoughts, this is everything I thought Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald was and everything I thought it wasn’t.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald was the perfect balance between an homage to the Harry Potter franchise and a film separate from the Harry Potter franchise. Although Fantastic Beasts is set in the same world as Harry Potter and involves characters that are seen or mentioned in the original films, its plot and themes are different than that of Harry Potter. The fact that Fantastic Beasts is set in a different era, with protagonists in an older age bracket, gives this series a different tone to it. The themes displayed in the film are influenced by this new tone. Instead of a series following the coming of age of a young wizard and his friends, it follows, among other things, a slightly peculiar wizard and his strange but endearing relationship with magical creatures. This different plot and theme give the film series a refreshing new quality that gives the audience new perspectives to look at. With all that being said, the film still carried subtle yet strong ties to Harry Potter that transported the audience to the original cinematic masterpiece from time to time. The most obvious homage to the Harry Potter film series was the presence of characters that we all know and love. Out of all the characters, Albus Dumbledore was undeniably the greatest homage to Harry Potter. Although portrayed by a different actor, the spirit of Dumbledore was perfectly reflected in the film (also the fact that young Dumbledore was played by Jude Law has been the best thing to ever happened since J.K Rowling created the Harry Potter series). Along with the characters, the uncoincidental resemblance of certain scenes to scenes in Harry Potter, like the infamous bogart scene, created this sense of teleportation to the original film series. Basically, the entire portion of the film that was set in Hogwarts had an identical tone to Harry Potter. The second Hogwarts came into view and the first few notes of the unforgettable Harry Potter soundtrack began to play, I was transported to the original film and couldn’t help but let an ear to ear grin take over my face. The new and original concepts that Fantastic Beasts The Crimes of Grindelwald has along with occasional scenes that mirror the tone of the Harry Potter series creates this perfect balance where old and new come into harmony.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald was an unexpected cinematic work of art. For me, there are two kinds of films: Films that are created with the intent of entertaining, and films that use the medium as a form of artistic expression. I’ve always seen the Harry Potter films and the first Fantastic Beasts film, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, as films focused on entertainment. I’ve always been more enveloped in the storyline and characters than anything else in these films, but when watching Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, I was taken aback by the artistic cinematography choices made throughout the film. My surprise had quite literally started the second the film began. The film opened with a close-up shot of Grindelwald’s face, the lighting coming from screen left illuminated his face and highlighted his pure white hair in such an enchanting way. It was as if every piece of his hair, from the hair on his head to his eyelashes were glowing. The satisfying imagery continued with vivid and colorful visuals that overwhelmed the sense of sight. The images had this almost silky feel to it which may sound odd but, trust me, if you see the film you’ll understand what I mean. The cinematic art didn’t stop there, throughout the duration of the film, extreme close up shots, slow zooms, slow pans, and slow-motion shots were used almost obsessively. It gave the film this slow and heavy feeling as if you were in a trance. Although the atmosphere felt slow and heavy, the actual pace of the film did not, which is a contradiction I can’t fully grasp but applaud the cinematographers for capturing because in my experience, slowly paced films can be excruciating to sit through. I think this slow and heavy atmosphere helped amplify the weight of the unfortunate and grave events happening in the film.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald wasn’t a film that could succeed as a stand-alone. Everyone admittedly has a least favorite film in every film series, and in the Fantastic Beasts series, this film will probably hold that title for many. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the film was bad, the film just had more important jobs than to be phenomenal, one of which was to set up the next upcoming film. This film was more of an archway that leads to and sets up the next film to be unbelievably amazing. The way the film sets up the next film is by cracking a bunch of doors open but never fully opening them. There were a lot of big points that the film touched on but the audience never saw the full scope of them. This is seen with the exploration into Creedence’s family history, Grindelwald’s power over the wizarding world, and the role Dumbledore plays in all of it. These are all main themes throughout the movie that are never fully delved into; we get some answers concerning them but we are ultimately left with only a fraction of the whole picture. This sets up the next film to have more grandiose, earth-shattering revelations and leaves the audience with the feeling of wanting to know more, creating an excitement for the next film.
After going through my own reflection of the film, I can see where everyone is coming from with their likes and dislikes. I personally think that some may be inaccurately correlating the absence of a jaw-dropping event with a bad film, which is understandable seeing as most of the other films in the wizarding world have had that jaw-dropping effect. If people hold this film to a different scale than the Harry Potter films, I think they will see the film more sincerely and can judge it through clearer eyes.