500 Words or Less Reviews: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

*This review will be spoiler-free.*

One of the biggest complaints I heard about the original Fantastic Beasts movie was that it was so far removed from the original series, it didn’t feel like a Harry Potter story. To me, it still had a good plot and great characters and is worth rewatching, but I sympathize with that complaint.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald gives us much more of the original canon in subtle and overt ways, but still does a fine job of keeping the narrative separate from Harry’s era at Hogwarts so that it can stand on its own legs and tell a fresh story without the weight of massive book scrutiny.

Eddie Redmayne is back as the peculiar Newt Scamander, who another character aptly describes as a man who doesn’t care for power or prestige but for what is right. Scamander may not ever rise to the level of characters like Hagrid and McGonagall in my mind but he is a welcome addition to the Harry Potter universe.

They chose Newt’s book to be the title of these films and while the films themselves are not truly about the beasts that he loves so much, they do play a significant role in plot development. And Newt unleashes a new, wondrous, Jim Henson-esque creature that steals some scenes.

Johnny Depp is surprisingly quite modest in his titular, antagonist role. For a man who has made a living off of being magnificently weird as unique characters, he doesn’t try to do too much here. I suppose the backstory from the original series, the characters “look” and the script are enough and he doesn’t have to be outrageous to bring Grindelwald to life. If anything, I thought he was too subdued.

Jude Law is as brilliant as you would expect and Dan Fogler reprising his role as Jacob is even funnier and more sympathetic than the first go round. The rest of the cast is a mixture of decent to bland.

There are twists galore in this movie but I must see the rest of the series before I can judge them.

On that note, without revealing anything, I will conclude by saying the ending will have people talking until the third part is released. And my only comment in this review is to say that it is imperative to me that they do not make the same mistakes that were made with The Cursed Child. As mentioned, a significant part of what makes these movies work so far to me is that they are separated from the seven-book/eight movie story enough that they can let these movies breathe without fear of them clashing with the original. They may be nearing dangerous waters.

The Harry Potter brand is clearly at a crossroads. The crucial plot decisions of these next three movies will swing the post-book series material either into the “It was nearly all terrible” or “Fantastic Beasts was fantastic and we barely remember The Cursed Child.” I’m eager to see the result.

Three stars out of five.

Gowdy Cannon

I am currently the pastor of Bear Point FWB Church in Sesser, IL. I previously served for 17 years as the associate bilingual pastor at Northwest Community Church in Chicago. My wife, Kayla, and I have been married nearly seven years and have a 3-year-old son, Liam Erasmus. I have been a student at Welch College in Nashville and at Moody Theological Seminary in Chicago. I love The USC (the real one in SC, not the other one in CA), Seinfeld, John 3:30, Chic-Fil-A, Dumb and Dumber, the book of Job, preaching and teaching, and arguing about sports.

6 thoughts on “500 Words or Less Reviews: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

  • November 16, 2018 at 9:23 am

    I’m looking forward to it. I really enjoyed the first one. I would like to see it again, with my boys, if only I could find someone that owns it so I could borrow it. Alas! It’s not meant to be!

  • June 12, 2019 at 5:45 pm

    I started watching this a couple nights ago with my sons (my second time, their first) right after finishing the first movie and a week or so after finishing the Harry Potter movies (also first time for the boys). The boys finished the Harry Potter books for the first time a month or so ago. Every time I watch the Harry Potter movies, I like them less. They are clearly adaptations from a book (as opposed to a true retelling of the same story in a different medium), and they are rather poor adaptations. Every time I watch the Fantastic Beasts movies, I like them more, and I liked them a lot the first time. They don’t have the baggage of a book adaptation. I know they are heavily criticized, but I just don’t get it.

    • June 13, 2019 at 8:48 am

      I really enjoyed the first film. Have yet to see the sequel. I need to remedy that.

      I think you are crazy about the Harry Potter films, though I don’t completely disagree that they are adaptations of the books as opposed to true retellings of the story in a different medium. I think the book fans would have lost their minds had the filmmakers taken too many liberties to the story by making the films a retelling.

      • June 13, 2019 at 4:45 pm

        The Harry Potter films are not just adaptations. They are poor adaptations, and any true book fan should rightly have lost their mind as much or more than if they had completely re-worked the story to fit the medium of film.

        If I evaluate them as a standalone entity, as if the books did not exist, the Harry Potter films would merely be ok, at best.

        Hopefully the property gets revisited in another decade or two and someone decides to do the films right. Or, better yet, someone decides to do it as a high quality television series and really take their time with it.

        Regardless the Fantastic Beasts films are, so far, well – fantastic… (unlike their Harry Potter counterparts)

        • June 14, 2019 at 10:50 am

          Maybe we need to hash this out in a podcast…

          • June 14, 2019 at 12:05 pm

            Yes! Where we can also talk about an example of this done correctly with the excellent film versions of The Hobbit…

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