Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald has taken a beating from fans and critics alike, but despite its flaws it does have one major advantage over the original Harry Potter saga: its villain. Lord Voldemort was a pretty one-dimensional villain, primarily concerned with selfish pursuits of power and immortality, and controlling his followers through fear. By contrast, Grindelwald has a grander vision for the world, and knows that it can't be achieved through sheer brute force alone. Instead, he engages in a chess game with the magical authorities and, by the end of The Crimes of Grindelwald, it's a game that he's winning.
The strength of Grindelwald as a character will be key to the success of the Fantastic Beasts franchise, which still has three more movies in the pipeline. Although Newt Scamander is the protagonist of the story, Fantastic Beasts is really the chronicle of Grindelwald's rise to power and his eventual defeat by Albus Dumbledore. Given that the story will come to a close in 1945, the movies will also inevitably end up incorporating the horrors of World War II and the Holocaust, which have already come into play via Grindelwald's vision of the future.
If Grindelwald is to serve as the wizarding world's version of Adolf Hitler in this story, then he can't simply be an evil man with great power searching for magical relics with the help of a small handful of followers. The Fantastic Beasts movies also need to explore how Grindelwald managed to bring a significant portion of the wizarding community over to his side. In The Crimes of Grindelwald, we got a chilling glimpse of how he achieves that.
- This Page: Why Voldemort Is A Pretty Boring Villain
- Page 2: Why Grindelwald Is A More Interesting Villain Than Voldemort
Voldemort Is Openly Evil & Controls Through Fear
First of all, it should be noted that Voldemort being a rather one-dimensional villain isn't necessarily a great black mark against the original Harry Potter series. In those books and films, the emphasis was on the heroes and their relationships, struggles, and triumphs, and Voldemort primarily existed as a force for them to work against. In many of the books he either popped up only at the end, or only in some oblique form (Chamber of Secrets), or even not at all (Prisoner of Azkaban). We did eventually learn Voldemort's backstory - that he was the son of an exiled witch from a fallen pure-blood family, and that his father was a haughty muggle who was tricked into marriage through use of a love potion. However, by all accounts it seemed as though Tom Riddle was "evil" from a very early age, frightening and tormenting his fellow orphans in the orphanage where he was raised.
Voldemort was never really shown to be a particularly skilled manipulator of people, instead choosing to exert control through fear - to the point that wizards and witches were terrified to even speak his name (which literally translates as "Flight of Death"). He never offered any pretense of having a noble cause or having the wizarding world's wellbeing in his best interests. His followers were made up of pure-blood witches and wizards who feared him almost as much as everyone else, and during his second rise to power most of them returned to his side out of fear rather than loyalty.
Voldemort's brute-force approach to power is also reflected in the fact that his strategizing left a lot to be desired. He created his own worst enemy, in Harry Potter, by attempting to kill him as a baby - thereby crippling himself and leaving Harry with an extra layer of protection. His most complex plan was executed in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, when he planted Barty Crouch Jr. in disguise at Hogwarts and manipulated the entirety of the Triwizard Tournament all so that Harry would grab the Triwizard Cup, which had been turned into a portkey, and be transported to the graveyard where Tom Riddle Sr. was buried. Of course, as many fans have pointed out over the years, this plan was laughably over-complicated, especially since the only thing Voldemort actually needed for the ritual was a few drops of Harry's blood - which Crouch could have gotten at any time.
Basically, Voldemort is shown to be a powerful but rather stupid villain, who is hamstrung over and over again by his own arrogance. His followers joined him out of fear or power-lust, but few were truly loyal to him. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, all it takes is for the Death Eaters to see that Harry has survived Voldemort's Killing Curse a second time, and many of them Disapparate on the spot. Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that dismantling Grindelwald's support will be so easy.