This review of The Crimes of Grindelwald is not spoiler-free!
I wrote my first (spoiler-free) review for The Crimes of Grindelwald a week before the official premiere, so in this review I’m going to avoid talking about the same things and delve deeper into some specific, noteworthy parts of the film.
Naturally, if you haven’t seen the movie yet, beware of spoilers!
So who is Credence Barebone?
He’s Aurelius Dumbledore.
This was one of the more confusing threads in The Crimes of Grindelwald because I truly felt like there wasn’t enough exposition to it. I wish Corvus Lestrange had been mentioned in the first film, even if it was just a brief namedrop. They did it with Leta Lestrange, which made her appearance more anticipated and exciting. It would’ve made the prophecies and identity storyline all make a little more sense.
Regardless of its confusing beginning, it ended beautifully. Leta’s story was one of my favorite parts, and Grindelwald revealing to Credence that he’s actually a Dumbledore, with a fiery phoenix, was an amazing way to end the movie.
This plotline answers one question, but leaves us with so many more. Does Albus actually know Credence is his brother? Is that why he wanted Newt to protect him? If Grindelwald knows, you’d assume Albus probably does too. Or perhaps Grindelwald figured it out later and Albus is completely unaware. Why is Credence erased from the family line and a complete secret in the future Potter films? And does he have the same mother as Albus and his other siblings?
Gellert Grindelwald verses Lord Voldemort
We finally see Gellert Grindelwald fleshed out as a character, and there’s actually huge, recognizable differences between him and Lord Voldemort.
Voldemort always came across as unhinged and crazy, which makes sense when you consider he cut his soul into seven pieces. His followers basically walked around on eggshells, and any time Voldemort was present, he always did the killing.
Grindelwald is the opposite. He’s significantly calmer, yet still charismatic. He reminds me of a cult leader. And when it comes down to killing, he isn’t always the one to throw the curse. One scene that really struck me was when Grindelwald and his followers take residence in Paris. He sends people in to kill the residents for him, and when they find the little boy… Grindelwald leaves and someone else kills him off-screen.
This isn’t me making a case for Grindelwald as a secret hero or even an empathetic character, but rather pointing out how different he is compared to Voldemort. He doesn’t seem to relish in violence like Voldemort, and it’s refreshing to see a different type of villain in the series.
While Voldemort was terrifying and someone who might haunt your nightmares, Grindelwald seems more authentic and creepy. Voldemort scared people into following him. Grindelwald convinces people to follow him. Both are effective.
Breaking Down The Slytherin Stereotype
In the past, we’ve seen a few Slytherins that were Good – Horace Slughorn and Regulus Black are the top two that come to mind (I’d put Snape in a very different, more complicated category). Going into this film, there are a lot of preconceived notions of the kind of character Leta Lestrange will be. Not only is she a Slytherin, but, more notably, she’s also a Lestrange. And the brief namedrop in the first film didn’t leave the audience with a good impression of her.
The “evil” Slytherin stereotype is something a lot of fans talk about, which is why Leta Lestrange is such a pleasant surprise in The Crimes of Grindelwald. Zoë Kravitz commands every scene with a beguiling presence, and brings new life to a character we didn’t expect to be so tragic and Good.
The Scamander brothers seem to be the only two people who truly love her without reservations. Their dynamic didn’t seem like a real love triangle at all. There may have been some lingering, unspoken feelings between Newt and Leta, but they’re completely overshadowed by Newt with Tina and Leta with Theseus.
Young Newt and Leta are a delight to watch. All of the Hogwarts scenes were standouts for obvious reasons, but watching two outsiders like Newt and Leta find solace and friendship with each other is a fantastic highlight. And the fact that Newt’s a Hufflepuff and Leta’s a Slytherin adds a whole new facet to the storyline. Both characters actively defy their house stereotypes – Newt as a brave hero and Leta as a fighter for the good side.
Although Leta dies in the end, she dies a hero. She proves to herself that she’s not what everyone expects her to be and sacrifices herself for the two people she loves most in the world. Although I would’ve liked to see more of her, I’d much rather see her go out as a hero than watch her have an arc similar to Queenie’s. For Leta, that wouldn’t have worked at all, but for Queenie it does…
The Downfall of Queenie Goldstein
Queenie Goldstein had quite an interesting character arc in this film. She had limited screentime in comparison to the other three characters in the original Fantastic Beasts Core Four, but her character is still pivotal to the central conflict.
As much as Queenie fans may hate where her arc takes her, it’s vital to the story. One of the Good Characters has to go to Grindelwald – it just makes sense. And Credence doesn’t count. Having one more character turn to the dark side with him takes the story and character dynamics to another level.
Queenie is the obvious choice for this – between her romance with Jacob and her telepathic powers. Grindelwald is a smooth talker, and he knows that Queenie would be a huge asset to have on his side. He convinces her that his cause is all about having the freedom to love who you want. This is exactly what sets him apart from Lord Voldemort. Grindelwald is compelling and manipulative. He makes her feel safe and calm in a moment where she’s initially on guard, and he exploits her weaknesses.
However, I do believe there is something more nefarious going on as well. Queenie seems to be in a trance during Grindelwald’s cemetery speech. She seems more normal at the end with Credence, but I definitely wouldn’t discount any magic manipulation.
My one disappointment with Queenie’s arc is that we never see her and Tina interact, but their relationship will undoubtedly come into play during the next film.
Dumbledore and Grindelwald
The Mirror of Erised scene, as predicted, is one my favorites. I love seeing Jamie Campbell Bower and Toby Regbo again. And I love how we’re subtly starting to delve into what happened between them and what they are to each other.
Dumbledore saying “we were more than brothers” is pretty huge. It’s an obvious dig at the popular “oh they aren’t in love, they’re just best friends, like siblings” excuse that people frequently use when characters of the same sex show a notable connection.
Plus, there’s the blood bond. I had my money on an unbreakable vow, but this is even better. It’s intimate. The implications are there, and they were there in the original Potter series too.
So What Are the Negatives?
There’s really only two things…
1. There wasn’t enough Nagini.
It’s a daring twist, and one that I actually real love. But if you’re going to do it, you need to give it a fair amount of screentime.
Nagini doesn’t have much to do in The Crimes of Grindelwald. She has her introduction scenes at the circus and a brief action sequence, but overall she’s just a companion to Credence. I do think because of that she’ll have a much bigger role in the rest of the series.
Right now she’s the only person that Credence cares about, and his entire arc is about finding his real identity and family. What he might eventually realize is that family is more than blood, and that will bring him back to Nagini. I just wish we had seen more of them to set that up.
2. The movie does feel a bit convoluted at times.
There is a lot of information and a lot of storylines going on all at once. There were some arcs that could’ve used more exposition, and the film definitely gets confusing at times. It’s not necessarily hard to understand what’s happening in any particular scene, but there’s so much going on that it can be hard to follow.
Unlike the first film, The Crimes of Grindelwald seems too disjointed, with far too many independent storylines. They sort of converge at the end, but it isn’t graceful. This is probably a deal breaker for some film critics, but I think if any film can get away with that type of problem and still come out as a compelling film… it’s a Harry Potter movie.