Spoiler warning: Lots of spoilers for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald here, so come back after seeing the movie!
For a series that’s predominantly about wizards and witches, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is lacking magic. The second film in a reported five-part series, the movie released this weekend but it hasn’t captured the spirit or the attention of the Harry Potter films that preceded it. The Crimes of Grindelwald has received mixed reviews and had the lowest domestic opening weekend of the Harry Potter franchise with $62 million, but that doesn’t mean that all hope is lost for this budding franchise.
There will almost certainly be a Fantastic Beasts 3, partly because Harry Potter is massive and Warner Bros. has invested too many resources to stop now, and because the sequel was practically all set up for a future film. The adventures of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and the gang aren’t done yet and it’s not too late to course correct some issues. Fantastic Beasts 3 has a lot of potential, so here are just a few things that can be done to make it the exciting and satisfying film that fans want it to be.
More Fantastic Beasts
For a movie with Fantastic Beasts in the title, there weren’t very many magical creatures in this sequel. Part of the reason for that is the story is shifting away from the beasts to focus on Grindelwald’s war, and it’s going to get harder and harder to find ways to organically include these majestic creatures. That’s a shame, because the beasts are what set these movies apart from the other Harry Potter films. They are unique and imaginative, and they give the movie extra character development where there is none. Maybe it was the wrong choice to use fantastic beasts to launch a franchise that was about something else entirely, but hopefully, J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros. can find a way to make it work.
Justify Character Decisions
There’s been much said about the ending of The Crimes of Grindelwald and while the main talking point is the Credence-is-a-Dumbledore reveal, the ending as a whole is problematic. The whole ending is predicated on characters choosing a side, but the shock value of those decisions falls completely flat because it’s unearned. For example, Queenie sides with Grindelwald, a development that could have been interesting but is executed so poorly and doesn’t make a lick of sense. Quennie has all of one scene with Grindelwald and then after one rally she’s all “go Team Grindelwald,” betraying all of her friends and family to do so. Credence is in a similar boat, and Fantastic Beasts 3 should devote more time to explaining their rationale behind joining Grindelwald so that this drama is actually, well, dramatic.
Develop The Scamander Brother Relationship
The Crimes of Grindelwald introduces us to Theseus Scamander, Newt’s brother. The movie tells us that they have a complicated and tumultuous relationship, but it never actually shows that. At the beginning of the movie, Theseus tries to help Newt with the Ministry of Magic and warns him that he’s being watched. Later in the film, Tina Goldstein immobilizes Theseus, and Newt says it was the greatest moment of his life. Why? We don’t really ever get a sense of what their relationship is, which is arguably a symptom of a larger issue that I’ll get into in a moment. With the Scamander brothers united by a common cause at the end of the film, Fantastic Beasts 3 could go a long way to explore that family history and drama.
Trim What’s Not Working
The Crimes of Grindelwald is a very busy movie that is heavy on plot and exposition but never really feels like anything is happening. That’s because this is all just set up for Dumbledore V. Grindelwald down the line and the movie just doesn’t have time for character development or explaining what’s happening. Fantastic Beasts 3 can work to fix this by cutting down all the superfluous material. That partly means reducing the characters to a core unit (there’s a reason Harry Potter barely expanded its focus beyond three teenagers) and cutting any complicated storylines. I know I said Fantastic Beasts 3 should explore the Scamanders, but if that isn’t working, then give it the boot. If you’re going to hype up Nagini and only give her three lines, maybe she shouldn’t have been in this movie. There’s just too many moving parts distracting Crimes of Grindelwald from developing the things that matter, so Fantastic Beasts 3 needs a renewed and simplified focus.
Explain What Grindelwald Wants
Voldemort had a pretty simple M.O.: Muggles are dirty, and wizards should rule/kill them all. He wasn’t a very complicated snake-man, but Grindelwald is a different story. Perhaps this is just me, but I had a very hard time following what Grindelwald is trying to achieve. He’s trying to get the wizarding world to reveal themselves to muggles, but for what? To kill them? He says he wants freedom, and that he doesn’t hate muggles, but he had no problem killing a baby (a thing that happens MORE THAN ONCE). Harry Potter has never been afraid to go black and white with its depiction of good and evil, and it’s never a bad idea to let the audience know what the villain wants. Also, have him do some crimes next time. He spent the whole movie plotting and getting high on magic skull smoke.
Have Dumbledore Do Something
As much as Newt Scamander is on the frontlines, what these movies really want to be about is Dumbledore and Grindelwald. The films are all about the growing conflict of Grindelwald’s war and Dumbledore is right in the center. He’s certainly more connected to it than Newt. That’s why it’s finally time for Dumbledore to step up, find a substitute teacher, and get his hands dirty. Dumbledore has always been a character helping from the sidelines, but now that he’s a main player, he’s got to actually do something. He’s supposed to be one of the most powerful wizards ever, but we’ve never gotten a chance to really see that. He always operates through proxies or from the shadows, but these movies are about him now more than ever and it’s never engaging to watch a main character do nothing.