Less is More: Why “The Crimes of Grindelwald” Might Be a Cluttered Mess

Throughout the next 11 months, as the release date of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald approaches, we’re sure to be inundated with a plethora of information and media related to the film, inviting fans to speculate on where the series will take us next. Originally announced as a trilogy, the Fantastic Beasts film series soon expanded into a pentalogy. As much as I was thrilled that we would get to see more of J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world, my initial reaction to this development was one of skepticism; was the decision artistically driven or financially motivated?

However, given the number of characters and settings that will be featured in Crimes of Grindelwald, my doubts have dissipated slightly. It’s evident that there are so many intertwining plot elements in the story that Rowling wants to tell with these films that five films are necessary to succinctly portray it. That was one criticism of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them that I had. Tonally, the film was all over the place, and it was trying to be too many things at once. This was most evident in the political subplot featuring the Shaws, which had no payoff whatsoever, demonstrating Rowling’s inexperience as a screenwriter and highlighting the difference between films and books that I didn’t appreciate as much previously. When it came to the film adaptations of the Harry Potter series, my gripe was always that filmmakers didn’t stay loyal to the source material, amending it or removing elements of it altogether. With Fantastic Beasts, though, my attitude is different. I don’t want detail for the sake of detail, but only if it serves a purpose by moving the story along.

 

 

Rowling previously described the Fantastic Beasts series as not a prequel,” and although this statement was believable before the first film was released, as we delve deeper into these series of films, the story that she wants to tell is so closely tied to the Harry Potter series that to say that it’s not a prequel would be disingenuous. I have sometimes wondered if featuring Dumbledore and Grindelwald’s backstory, and taking us back to Hogwarts, was a corporate ploy to generate excitement for these films. Would fans receive Fantastic Beasts as enthusiastically if the story solely focused on Newt and references to the Harry Potter series were kept to a minimum or not present at all? This is the issue that faces Fantastic Beasts – everything about it will be compared to Potter, even if Rowling’s intention was to tell a separate and original story.

Having said all that, I’m personally hoping that Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is close to a three-hour film. With the sheer number of characters being featured in the film, I can’t see how anything less than that could do it justice. I strongly hope that this second film won’t feel as rushed as the first one was because that would undermine Rowling’s vision for the Fantastic Beasts series.

  • I agree, and it’s one of the problems of the film medium – you can’t just drop minor characters and details into the story for those of us who are paying attention. You need to cast actors, build sets, and interrupt whatever’s going on to focus on that.

    As an example, consider Goblet of Fire. Amid all the hubbub of the Triwizard Tournament, we have the following subplots: SPEW, the twins blackmailing Ludo Bagman, the mystery of Bertha Jorkins, Percy working for Crouch, and Rita Skeeter gossiping. That’s because a single conversation by the Trio can hit upon a majority of these things. But unless you have actors sitting around talking about the subplots, that’s not easily done in film.

  • Iain Walker

    Yes, on first viewing Fantastic Beasts did feel a bit rushed, as if it was trying to pack in too much. It felt as if it was a condensed adaptation of a larger, richer and more textured work (just like the Potter film adaptations, in fact).

    With the Potter films, when things seemed too condensed or glossed over, at least we could fall back on the books to fill in the gaps. We don’t have this with Fantastic Beasts, but I did find that constructing a virtual “source novel” in my head (comprising film, script and extra background material) went quite a long way to making my peace with the pacing of the film. It gave what I saw on screen context (or at least the illusion of context), so that it felt more like the telling of a whole story. And so, on subsequent viewings, the pacing and the tonal shifts no longer bother me.

    I suspect (for which read “hope”) that as Rowling grows in experience as a screenwriter, her scripts will become more deft. Also, one of Yates’ strengths as a director is his grasp of visual storytelling. So I’m not particularly worried – yet.

  • Mike

    Rowling never described the Fantastic Beasts movie series as “not a prequel”, and the linked tweet is not evidence of such. She’s merely referencing the “not a prequel” controversy surrounding Cursed Child, when talking about the “amount of movies” discussion around the FB series.

    So all of that “corporate ploy” bit is nonsense. And nor was she disingenuous. Which is the word I think you meant when you said “ingenious”.

  • hg

    As Mike correctly wrote, the stuff about the prequel is simply wrong. JKR didn’t say anything about this regarding Fantastic Beasts. It was a reference to Cursed Child.

    As for the number of characters. We don’t know how big a role they will play. Some could simply appear in only one scene or in the background. In each of the Harry Potter movies are much more characters.

    • Victor

      The first press release by Warner Bros. contains the following quote from J.K. Rowling: “Although it will be set in the worldwide community of witches and wizards where I was so happy for seventeen years, ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ is neither a prequel nor a sequel to the Harry Potter series, but an extension of the wizarding world.”