The Disappointments of Grindelwald

– Zenia Zuraiq, II BSc. Physics

On July 15, 2011, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part:2 released, marking an official end to the Harry Potter canon. It was bittersweet, with fans having to accept that they might just have to say goodbye to Hogwarts.

But, of course, it seemed that the Queen of all things Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling wasn’t all that ready to say goodbye either. Jo set up Pottermore, an interactive website with insights into Hogwarts and its many characters. She released post-finale trivia on some fan favourites – it was so heartening to know George Weasley named his son after his late twin brother, Fred, and it was disappointing to know that Neville Longbottom and Luna Lovegood didn’t end up together even with their cinematic chemistry.

However, the trivia and world building kept on coming. In 2016, we went back to Harry Potter, both literally and figuratively, with Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a play serving as a sort of sequel focussed on the next generation of wizards – with Harry’s son, Albus Severus serving as the protagonist. This was an extremely polarizing time for Harry Potter fans, as the consensus seemed to be “why?” and “don’t ruin harry potter for us”.

However, nothing would deter J.K. Rowling from her incessant world-building. 2016 saw the first of a five-part series centred on a textbook mentioned in the series maybe once or twice – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The Fantastic Beasts movie was more well received than Cursed Child, giving us a likeable protagonist and secondary characters, with many people praising the fact that we got a sensitive male character in Newt Scamander.

This all brings us to the titular issue of the article. In November 2018, we received the sequel that nobody really asked for – Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.

And oh, it was awful.

The Crimes of Grindelwald is a movie that’s made with one purpose and one purpose only – to set up a sequel. It is the final step in the incessant world-building J.K. Rowling has insisted on, with what feels like more name drops than Ready Player One. The Crimes of Grindelwald is a fascinating case study in how not to capitalize on a pop culture classic.
All the great things about the first movie were cast aside for soulless sequel-hinting. Gone were the actual fantastic creatures and Newt Scamander’s sensitivity. Instead, we got an over the top, poorly queer coded villain in Grindelwald, played by an actor way past his prime. We got introduced to characters we never got to see developed. Characters from the first movie who had been acceptable in small doses were given more screen time with no extra personality. Jude Law’s Dumbledore was so far divorced from the Harry Potter books that it became painfully obvious that the only reason he was there was the name recognition. It was a movie that was written around plot twists and dramatic reveals, simply for the sake of them – simply to hint at a better future movie. It was an overdrawn trailer.

We reach a paradoxical state where it is Harry Potter’s universality that has ultimately led to its downfall. A diverse and well-established fanbase means a safe and bankable audience. The Crimes of Grindelwald is so boring and uninspired because it can be. There are no creative risks, no heart, no soul. The Harry Potter movies were far from perfect but there was at least a semblance of magic, an aura of other-worldliness. The only world you want to be in while watching this movie is another theatre.

Ultimately, the worst thing about Crimes of Grindelwald is that it is so safe, so inoffensive. It is not a terrible movie, it’s just bland. Bland and uninspired. Forgettable. Crimes of Grindelwald may not drive people away from Harry Potter but it isn’t going to draw any new fans in either.

There is a point in the movie, where for no obvious reason, we are treated to a couple of scenes at Hogwarts. We see students there in the classic uniforms as they walk through familiar corridors. Hedwig’s theme (or at least a similar melody) plays in the background. It is a crystallising moment – not because it has anything to do with the convoluted plot of the movie, but because you realise what exactly it is that you’re missing.

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