Warning: SPOILERS ahead for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald has been in theaters for a week, and critics and moviegoers alike have been delighting in lampooning it. The movie holds a dismal score of 40% on Rotten Tomatoes, and its more outlandish plot elements have become the target of widespread mockery.
The response isn't surprising, given that The Crimes of Grindelwald was hated by many before it was ever released: for keeping Johnny Depp around despite allegations of domestic abuse; for the reveal that Voldemort's snake, Nagini, was actually a human woman cursed to eventually turn into a beast; for the fact that Depp's Grindelwald and Jude Law's Dumbledore didn't have any scenes together and therefore their supposed romantic relationship wouldn't be made explicit; and, of course, because no one had really asked for a five-movie prequel series starring the author of one of Harry Potter's school textbooks.
Hating on a movie can be a fun group activity (see also: Batman V Superman), and defending a hated movie is decidedly a lot less fun. But while there are certainly criticisms to be made of The Crimes of Grindelwald - from its meandering, largely unstructured plot to Dumbledore's disappointingly conservative wardrobe - there are other criticisms that feel like a bit of a stretch, and the movie has some genuinely excellent elements that have gone overlooked.
- This Page: Fantastic Beasts 2's Controversies & Harry Potter Precedent
- Page 2: Grindelwald vs. Voldemort & Fantastic Beasts vs. Harry Potter
Fantastic Beasts 2 Was Hated Long Before Anyone Saw It
Those who are not particularly capital-O Online might not know that hating J.K. Rowling is a popular pastime. Based on retcons like the announcement that Dumbledore was secretly gay the whole time, and Nagini was originally an Asian woman who permanently turned into a snake, Rowling has been characterized as a clueless white woman clumsily trying to add diversity to a story that had only token diversity at best when she wrote it in the 1990s and early 2000s. The general buzz of negativity towards the author was compounded when she stepped in to defend Depp's casting, and when she tried to defend Nagini's new origins by claiming that Voldemort's snake had always been based on South Asian myths of naga - humans who could turn into snakes. It seemed that every time Rowling opened her mouth to defend a controversial decision, it only made things worse.
Another aspect of the movie that drew criticism before its release were the vague answers to questions about how Grindelwald and Dumbledore's boyhood romance would be addressed. Director David Yates gave a non-committal response, while Rowling just said, "Watch this space." These annoyingly coy remarks led many (this writer included) to assume that Warner Bros. was afraid of making Dumbledore explicitly gay, and were somehow hoping to get through a five-movie franchise without his and Grindelwald's deeper relationship ever being mentioned.
The problems with pre-judging a movie became apparent when it turned out, for example, that The Crimes of Grindelwald does address Grindelwald and Dumbledore's relationship, despite the fact that the characters have no scenes together outside of flashbacks. When Travers tells Dumbledore that he heard the two of them were "as close as brothers," Dumbledore wastes no time clarifying that they were "closer than brothers." When he looks into the Mirror of Erised - an artifact that shows a person what they desire most in the world - he sees Grindelwald staring back at him. In a flashback scene, Grindelwald and Dumbledore hold hands to complete their blood oath, staring deep into each other's eyes. The movie may not state in plain language that the two of them were romantically involved, but you'd have to be pretty oblivious to miss all the clues. It certainly outpaces the much-hyped "LGBT representation" of last year's Beauty and the Beast, which consisted of about half a second of LeFou dancing with a man.
The Harry Potter Books Also Had Outlandish Twists
One of the aspects of The Crimes of Grindelwald that negative reviews have hit on the most is the reveal that Credence Barebone is actually Albus Dumbledore's long-lost (and never before mentioned) brother, Aurelius Dumbledore. It's fair to say that the twists and turns regarding Credence's true identity do become hard to follow - so much so that at one point Leta Lestrange literally whips out a family tree to try and explain the situation. However, it's not fair to say that the Dumbledore twist comes entirely out of left-field. After all, Credence is an Obscurial, and the only other Obscurial we've seen mentioned in Harry Potter canon is Ariana Dumbledore.
Yes, it's a huge coincidence that Leta Lestrange should have happened to swap her own baby brother with the younger brother of Albus Dumbledore, and that they both just happened to be travelling on the same ship across the Atlantic... But it makes sense when you consider that this rare occurrence was fulfilling part of Tycho Dodonus' prophecy. By their very nature, prophecies tend to refer to incredibly specific, unusual, and unlikely events, otherwise they would be fulfilled all the time by pure accident. It's equally outlandish that Macduff should just happen to have been "from his mother's womb/Untimely ripped" and then several decades later conveniently positioned in a duel with Macbeth, a man who cannot be killed by any "man born of woman" - but that's fate for you.
The Harry Potter books were no strange to prophecies, coincidences, and major twists, and Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald should be judged in accordance with the fantasy world that it's set in. There's even precedent for the exact scenario of an animal character turning out to have been a transformed human all along, since that was one of the big twists of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Is the Nagini reveal really any more ridiculous than the Scabbers reveal?