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In Defense of ‘Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald’

I loved the first Fantastic Beast movie. A lot. Newt’s devotion to helping magical animals, his attachment to the individual beasts in his care, and his awkwardness with people are all things I strongly identify with. So naturally, I was very excited about the second movie coming out, and we went to see it opening weekend despite lots of articles tearing it apart.

Now with the DVD release, and I think J K Rowling must have done some sort of interview that upset folks, there seems to be a new round of ‘the problems with Fantastic Beasts’ articles showing up in my various online feeds. While some of the problems are probably valid, and I even agree with some of the criticism, I still really enjoyed it a lot, and wanted to throw out some positives from a big fan (me).

The second Fantastic Beasts movie is darker than the first. It might be darker than any previous Harry Potter movie at all. I’ve rewatched it a couple of times since my DVD arrived, and I think I can say with some confidence that there are nearly zero light moments in the whole thing. I wonder if this is the real problem a lot of the critics had with it. It is so different in mood from the first, and definitely from the Harry Potter movies.

In the first there were quite a few funny moments, mostly with Jacob. In the second, his and Queenie’s story line is not funny at all, it is intensely tragic. In fact, I don’t think we see Queenie at any point in the second film where she is not in severe emotional pain. That’s a pretty harsh contrast to the way we see her in the first film. Jacob is doing a better job of coping with the obstacles that are in the way of his and Queenie’s relationship, but his pain and helplessness are there too. There are a few attempts at jokes or levity, but since everything is so heavy, they aren’t very funny, and just don’t work well. I actually believe that Grindelwald is not just taking advantage of Queenie’s emotional distress but actively mind controlling her in some way as well, as it is implied he can do. Her and Jacob’s storyline is heartbreaking to me. I mean, it’s great drama, but heartbreaking.

Also in the first there were a lot of moments of just pure wonder. The second tries to do that some too, but they are also generally heavier and darker – like watching Nagini transform. Newt is still Newt, and I love his character enough to go along with whatever he is doing. I do wish there had been more actual beasts featured again. I assume ones like the Kelpie, who get’s a big scene near the beginning and then is never mentioned again will perhaps show up in future movies. It was cool to see the Niffler’s additional skills put to use, and the scenes with the new Zouwu cat/dragon thing were some of the most fun in the film.

So, generally, I think this movie was so different from the first that it could be jarring, but that doesn’t make it a bad movie. I know I am looking forward to the next and finding out what happens next (to Jacob, Newt, Queenie and Tina anyway, honestly I’m less interested in what happens to Grindelwald and Credence and the rest of those.)

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