Why I Desperately Want to Like “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald”
SPOILERS AHEAD: PROCEED WITH CAUTION
I often read similar comments on the articles I write for MuggleNet. These comments lament how “negative” MuggleNet has become and how the fandom was a lot more fun in the past. I actually do yearn for the Potter fandom to return to its glory days. However, the reality is that those days are not coming back. Any criticism I level against Potter and Fantastic Beasts stems from the high standards I have for J.K. Rowling. My criticism comes from a place of love. If I didn’t care about the wizarding world, then I could consume anything that Rowling puts out passively. I desperately want to like Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald because Potter means everything to me – but I’m not going to force myself to love it. I’m not totally negative, though. I have and will defend Rowling if I think she’s receiving unfair criticism.
I have a love-hate relationship with the Harry Potter films. While I absolutely cherish the books, I feel less enthusiastic about the films. There are many scenes from the films I thought were great (the portrayal of “The Tale of the Three Brothers” was brilliant), but they were often overshadowed by the many problems I had with the films. I’ve read the Potter books more times than I can remember, but I can’t say the same for the films. I saw all the films in theaters as they were coming out. Each time I was about to see a Potter film, from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire onward, I was filled with excitement, and each time I left the theater, I felt unfulfilled.
The filmmakers consistently screwed up these films. While they might be good films on their own, they’re not good adaptations. Goblet of Fire insulted the audience’s intelligence by straying from the story. At the start of that film, we see Barty Crouch, Jr. with Wormtail and Voldemort at the Riddle house. Later, we see Barty Crouch, Jr. conjure the Dark Mark at the Quidditch World Cup. I know it’s a “children’s” film, but the audience didn’t need to be spoon-fed the big reveal of the plot – that’s just lazy filmmaking. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which is the second shortest film despite being the longest book, took one of the most gut-wrenchingly emotional chapters out of the entire series and reduced it to a sterilized, bland conversation barely lasting two minutes. The less said about Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince the better. By the time Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Parts 1 and 2 came out, I had already accepted that the films existed as an entity separate from the books. That didn’t mitigate any frustration I had, though. In Deathly Hallows – Part 1, Grindelwald reveals to Voldemort that the Elder Wand lies in Dumbledore’s tomb whereas in the book, he says, “Kill me, then, Voldemort, I welcome death! But my death will not bring you what you seek… there is so much you do not understand” (DH 23). In light of Fantastic Beasts, ignoring this moment feels like an oversight – especially since Dumbledore says, “They say he showed remorse in later years, alone in his cell at Nurmengard. I hope that it is true. I would like to think he did feel the horror and shame of what he had done” (DH 35). At the end of Deathly Hallows – Part 2, Voldemort disintegrates into oblivion when we should have been shown the mundanity of his corpse instead, shown that there was nothing special about Voldemort at all.
Learning that Rowling was screenwriting them made me feel optimistic about the Fantastic Beasts films. This is an opportunity for fans to see Rowling’s vision of the wizarding world on film, unrestricted. Adaptation issues are irrelevant, and since I’m walking into these films without any preconceived expectations, I feel like I’m less likely to be disappointed. When it was announced that there would be five Fantastic Beasts films rather than three, the cynic in me could have perceived this decision as a cash grab. However, the fan in me embraced it. I thought, “The more Potter-related material the better!” And with more films, there’s more room for exposition and character development.
Late last year, as we began to learn more about Crimes of Grindelwald, I began to be concerned that Crimes of Grindelwald might be a cluttered mess because it felt like Rowling was trying to pack too much into the film. With Rowling writing these films, there is no way that they could contradict the books, right? When Dumbledore was revealed to be teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts in Crimes of Grindelwald, I was annoyed, but it was such a minor detail in the grand scheme of things that it wasn’t anything worth losing sleep over. When Claudia Kim was revealed to be playing Nagini, I wasn’t as outraged as a lot of other people I saw voicing their concerns. But when it was revealed that a beloved Potter character would be appearing in Crimes of Grindelwald, I was flabbergasted – especially since I had spent the previous month defending Rowling against accusations of retconning.
Still, I remain hopeful for Crimes of Grindelwald. I don’t expect it to capture the magic I felt when I read the Potter books. However, I desperately want to enjoy it. Although I was previously able to fall back on the Potter books, if Crimes of Grindelwald is a disappointment, then I won’t have anything on which to cling.