‘Cats chat ’bout wizard spat

Daryn Steed

Nic: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is the second in a five-movie franchise. Since we know Grindelwald’s fate from a one-page mention in the books, the next three movies have 18 years to cover Grindelwald’s inevitable defeat.

Daryn: It’s important to understand this movie is simply a bridge to the next three. Think the second Hobbit movie, but on a much larger and more frustrating scale.

Nic: “Crimes” of Grindelwald implies plurality. His one crime seemed to be escaping from prison. Unless his second crime is being himself.

Daryn: It’s possible the movie was thinking ahead of itself and implying the second crime was casting Johnny Depp to play its villain.

Nic: Cast Johnny Depp. Put him in pure white face makeup to make an on-the-nose white supremacist reference. Profit.

Daryn: You really can’t blame them. Depp was perfect for this role. He plays the balance between creepy and psychopathic perfectly.

Nic: Grindelwald is really just a combination of Magneto, Voldemort and Donald Trump.

Daryn: Mostly Trump. His hair similarly defies physics. The debate of who uses more makeup would take up more space than we’re allowed for this review.

Nic: Grindelwald’s summoning his allies is so much cooler than the Dark Mark.

Daryn: Voldemort, who murders thousands of people and becomes so dangerous people are literally too afraid to say his name, simply gets a scary cloud in the sky. Grindelwald drops towels over buildings and takes away sunlight. It’s no wonder Voldemort was defeated by a teenager. He couldn’t even summon with style, much less organize a resistance powerful enough to defeat Dumbledore and his gaggle of awkward yet surprisingly intelligent students.

Nic: Grindelwald’s allies are mostly nameless (the one dude’s name is Abernathy?), and yet they get more lines than Credence, arguably a more important character than many other protagonists.

Daryn: We see one of his allies at least ten times, and I have literally no recollection of her name.

Nic: Newt’s love interest Tina is angry with him because of a story she saw in a tabloid. Of course, they try to resolve this issue during a critical and time-sensitive mission. A mad wizard hell-bent on securing wizards as a master race will surely wait while Newt and Tina argue about whether or not he’s marrying his high school flame. (Plot twist: he’s not.)

Daryn: Jacob Kowalski is even more useless and hilarious this time around. For a No-Maj veteran whose memory was obliviated following Grindelwald’s attack on New York, this dude seems to have an amazing grasp of the magical world and all the crazy people occupying it. Grindelwald very nearly kills everyone a few different times, and Jacob looks as fazed as he might be if you took away his breakfast.

Nic: Kowalski also returns in this grim-dark film with his plot-invulnerability in fights where he’s otherwise completely powerless. Grindelwald unleashes a storm of fire on room full of Aurors, redshirts in everything but shirt color, and immediately kills them all. Jacob just cleverly stands off to the side.

Daryn: Aurors are members of an elite unit of highly-trained, specialist officers within the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. They are supposedly the strongest wizards in the world. Yet Newt’s brother, Theseus, is more concerned with hugging Newt at every possible encounter than defeating a dark wizard determined to take control of all humanity.

Nic: Theseus Scamander is named after a Greek hero, who slayed a minotaur and founded Athens.

Daryn: The only thing Theseus slays in this movie is his chance for a meaningful role in the upcoming Fantastic Beasts films.

Nic: He tried his best. When he wasn’t hugging Newt. Now, Newt is the same shy, awkward man we loved from the first movie, except he’s somehow even better at fighting Dark Wizards in this one.

Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander and Dan Fogler as Jacob Kowalski in The Crimes of Grindelwald.

Daryn: If we’re living in a world where this man, who is apparently incapable of understanding basic social constructs, is our only hope to defeat the most powerful Dark Wizard of all time, what hope do we actually have?

Nic: In fact, he’s so good that the Aurors — the people whose literal job it is to fight Dark Wizards — want his help. Of course, he won’t do it because they want him to do something he morally disagrees with — tracking down Credence, who risked his own life to save everyone in the first movie. He ends up doing it anyway, but it’s on his terms, not theirs.

Daryn: Instead, the job of tracking down the boy is given to some other powerful Auror, who feels like he’s supposed to be important but it’s never quite explained how.

Nic: Yet another character whose name is either not mentioned or so unmemorable that I immediately forgot it. You know what was memorable? The fact that Nagini was a person at one point, which makes sense. This film tries to generate sympathy for the woman who becomes the creature inseparable from Voldemort, the creature who hospitalizes Arthur, savagely kills Snape and eats Charity Burbage, the Muggle Studies professor at Hogwarts.

Claudia Kim as Nagini in The Crimes of Grindelwald.

Daryn: Not only was she a person, but she was an absolute 10/10. Let’s talk about how somebody as beautiful as Nagini falls in love with Credence, our favorite love-to-hate villain-hero that may or may not be the destruction of the wizarding world as we know it. (Actually, we know he is not destructive or impactful in any significant way because he doesn’t get a single mention in the 4,224 pages of Harry Potter).

Nic: The fact that he returned at all nearly made me cry. Let’s bring back a character who, like Newt, talks into his chest the whole movie but is so much less charismatic they literally don’t let him say more than two sentences in any given conversation.

Daryn: Credence spends the entirety of this film wrestling with whether or not to ally with the villain. On one hand, Grindelwald is violent, racist and wants power over all wizards and Muggles. On the other, he might know whose Credence’s real parents were. News flash for you, Credence, your parents were most likely mind-numbingly average and probably would have let you down when you needed them the most.

Nic: Just like Rey’s in Star Wars. Although Credence’s parents didn’t sell him for booze. Probably.

Daryn: The rest of us spend most of our lives trying to undo the childhood damage done to our psyches. Take a seat and stop aiding the most dangerous wizard of all time.

Nic: Should we talk about how there’s a lot of small children murder in this movie?

Daryn: The movie takes two whole minutes to explore Newt’s caretaking routine, which includes setting traps to catch small creatures with very cute eyes and jumping into a lake to catch a large creature with very cute eyes.

Nic: Guess we’re not talking about small children death.

Daryn: We’re introduced to another caretaker, who earns the right to creepy music as she leaves the house but is never heard from again. Did she die? Did she realize that she was wasting her life away, taking care of animals that clearly would never appreciate her? Is it possible that she is Grindelwald is disguise? We’re not getting those answers either.

Daryn: In addition to his fantastic power as a dark wizard, Grindelwald can also apparently see the future. He warns wizards of the coming of World War II and nuclear bombs. How can he see the future? We should consider the possibility that Grindelwald is actually God. He’s doing what he sees best for the future of his children. Some have to die for the rest to prosper.

Nic: Hang on. Did Grindelwald ever actually talk about his plan? I’m so used to megalomaniacal villains simply outlining their steps to world domination that if one doesn’t, I get lost. Point is, we don’t know that he wants to kill everyone. He did say he liked having Muggles around as pack animals or something.

Daryn: The only other reasonable explanation for Grindelwald knowing about World War II is that he already gave birth to a young child and named him Adolf and had been feeding the child ideas of a supreme race since birth. Racism is taught, not inherent.

Nic: You know who else was racist and could see the future? Darth Sidious. New idea: Fantastic Beasts is actually just Star Wars, except Credence is infinitely less cool than Rey.

Daryn: Dumbledore makes fleeting and confusing appearances throughout. He has a baby beard, a receding hairline and is totally convinced Newt is the wizarding world’s only chance to defeat Grindelwald. If that’s true, Dumbledore forgets about him by 1980, when Harry Potter is born and becomes the new last hope. A reasonable assumption for a Dumbledore pushing around 240 years old; his memory is probably not as sharp as it once was.

Nic: Actually, Dumbledore’s canonical birth was in 1881, which places him at a strapping 46 in this movie and a clean 116 by the time he dies. (Spoiler: Snape kills him.) Regardless, he’s much younger than the incredibly-spry-for-his-age Nicolas Flamel, who was a real dude. The Harry Potter Flamel would have just turned 587 in time for this movie. Less hate for Dumbledore, please.

Daryn: I could have watched four hours of Nicolas Flamel running around his apartment. It was so lovely.

Nic: Agreed.

Daryn: Let’s address that weird hand-holding scene: are they or aren’t they? Since the publishing of Deathly Hallows in 2007, J.K. Rowling is determined to convince her readers that she absolutely is progressive and inclusive. Yes, of course I wrote gay characters! Dumbledore is gay, everyone! The only possible evidence in the books of his sexuality is Dumbledore’s relationship with Grindelwald, which is complex and ends in disaster. Is that why Dumbledore apparently closed himself off to love for the rest of his life? Is that why he has such a hard time imagining fighting Grindelwald, because their relationship was toxic and confusing and has stayed with Dumbledore all these years?

Nic: I’m pretty sure their hand-holding scene where they swore a blood oath to not kill each other was what was preventing him from fighting Grindelwald. I’m just spitballing, though.

Daryn: I swear blood oaths are different in the prequels than the original series. Aren’t you just supposed to promise not to do something, and if you do it, you’ll die? Fantastic Beasts really complicates the idea.

Nic: Grindelwald had that cute little locket thing as proof of the oath, which he remarkably didn’t notice as missing once the Niffler stole it. For a guy who can see the future, he’s not very perceptive.

Daryn: Most importantly, why, for the love of God, will Dumbledore not just tell these people what’s going on? He sends Newt on a wild goose chase all around Europe in search of Credence and Grindelwald, when he apparently already knew where both were. Though I suppose a secret-keeping Dumbledore is par for the course.

Nic: Under no circumstance should you tell an 11-year-old boy that magic Hitler is going to possibly come back from the dead and that the only way this magic Hitler can be defeated is by allowing him to kill you. You don’t say that to a pubescent boy either. Other than that, yeah, screw Dumbledore.

Daryn: We never mentioned Queenie. This woman puts a love spell on Jacob, tries to manipulate him into marrying her, runs away when he logically says they can’t get married because they’ll die, joins Grindelwald’s team because she’s a little sad, and we’re supposed to… like her?

Nic: Queenie is a queen. It’s in her name. I will hear no discussion. She spellbinds Jacob, then becomes spellbound by Grindelwald. Dramatic irony.

Daryn: If we’re going to judge people based solely on their names, then let’s talk about Porpentina Goldstein. Either her parents hated her, or they wanted everyone else to. It’s that simple.

Nic: Tina is not a good character.

Daryn: Obviously not. She’s the first to track down Credence, but she immediately loses him and subsequently does not do a single important thing for the rest of the film.

Nic: Like every Harry Potter film, Fantastic Beasts is riddled with plot holes.

Daryn: First, shield charms. What? How? Why are these not ever utilized in the Harry Potter series? At one point, Credence blows up a building and directs all of his force to one man, who watches the entire episode with a smile because he’s protected by a centimeter of his shield charm. Why would every Wizard not just walk around with these things employed at all times?

Nic: They do use them, they’re just ineffective against Killing Curses. When the entire enemy team runs around using Killing Curses all the time, it’s kind of cheating.

Daryn: Next, speaking spells. We learn from the Harry Potter books that performing spells without speaking is incredibly difficult and takes years to master. Yet almost every wizard in this movie is able to do extraordinary magic with absolutely no noise.

Nic: They literally cut out Grindelwald’s tongue, and he still performs incredible magical feats. He does get his tongue back, though. Somehow.

Daryn: Tongues play a surprisingly large role in the first five minutes of this film and a miniscule role for the rest.

Nic: In masterful Rowling retcon fashion, Minerva McGonagall makes an appearance, likely 8 years before she was born. Crimes of Grindelwald takes place in 1927. Clever fans worked out the math using information from the fifth Harry Potter book and Rowling’s official Pottermore bio for McGonagall and determined Oct. 4, 1935 as the day she was born.

Daryn: Sure, this is an actual plot hole, but at least we get to see her disciplining children, which is just so on-brand.

Nic: Master Transfiguration teacher Dumbledore teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts. Of course, he has to be; McGonagall, who was supposed to be trained by Dumbledore to teach Transfiguration, is in the movie.

Daryn: It’s good to know Hogwarts has always had a hard time holding onto their DATDA teacher. At what point do you call a loss a loss? Obviously, the wizarding world isn’t that serious about preventing dark wizards, so I’m not sure what the point of this class actually is.

Nic: It’s to train students to fight Dark Wizards, which they manage to do more competently than the Aurors. Always. Newt is just some guy, remember?

Daryn: Never forget that Voldemort was ultimately bested by a ragtag crew of Hogwarts students, ranging from bizarrely-capable Ron Weasley to usually-incompetent Neville Longbottom. Clearly, there’s no reason to have people making a living defending the wizarding world. Average people will come through every time.

Final verdict: should you go see this film?

The Crimes of Grindelwald is packed with gorgeous visuals, rapid travel between three different countries, a reluctant hero, a maybe-hero-maybe-villain, a snake person, actual Hitler and a plethora of forgettable side characters. It has a literally unpredictable plot full of retconning and a mood so dark we had flashbacks to part one of the Deathly Hallows.

Ultimately, If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you should see this movie. While the tone of the movie is different from the first, the wonder of Rowling’s Wizarding World still holds sway.

And if you’re not a fan, well, Venom’s still in theaters.