This past weekend, “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” opened to American audiences in cinemas. The only crime it seems Grindelwald has committed, however, was an underwhelming performance at the box office. On Nov. 16, the film opened to an $87 million opening weekend — the lowest opening for a film in the Harry Potter franchise yet. This is not to say that the Harry Potter prequel series’ future is compromised. Fans remain excited for the next installments, and the film hardly opened to critical hatred. “Crimes of Grindelwald” was indeed met with mixed reviews, and labeled as a filler film — an all too common second installment syndrome in both book and movie series. Still, the question remains — what exactly went wrong with “The Crimes of Grindelwald?”
The most common answer and general consensus by fans is that the film is simply too big. Caught in the middle of a complex web of plotlines, “The Crimes of Grindelwald” seems stuck between telling the story and making connections and shocking revelations back to the Harry Potter franchise. Between the main character, Newt Scamander, and his Fantastic Beasts after which the films are named, and his story, as well as his role in the larger plot of Grindelwald’s rise to power — a complex story which brings in young Dumbledore, sets up lore and history learned in the original Harry Potters, and expands the story to the entire wizarding world — the film has a lot to cover in its two and a half hour run time. The result? The story is too complex for its own good.
JK Rowling, who writes the screenplays for the films, is a seasoned novelist and is used to writing intricate, large books. The same amount of complexity, however, cannot be fit into a single film. As the movie expands, this makes “The Crimes of Grindelwald” feel more like a small piece of a whole, which audiences can’t quite make an understanding of, and a set up film for what is to come. Many were left with more questions than answers and felt as though, in having so much to cover, the film felt rushed and brushed over a lot of plotlines and character development arcs. In other words, in juggling so much, “The Crimes of Grindelwald” never got to dive in deep and truly tell many of the elements within — be it characters, history, world building, shocking reveals or plot. In fact, the film has been noted to be sloppy, with multiple inconsistencies with the established Wizarding World. Spells work and appear differently, timelines are changed, and more. Once again, the question is asked — has the franchise simply bit off more than it can chew? Has the Wizarding World expanded beyond what can be kept organized and consistent, as well as what can be followed by fans without confusion?
In the end, “The Crimes of Grindelwald” plays like a piece of a much bigger whole, rather than a cohesive standalone film. Though critically flawed, however, the film is still magic in the Wizarding World, and fans cannot wait to see the next installment as all the pieces come together. With more questions than answers, “The Crimes of Grindelwald” has prepared audiences for exciting things to come, and woven all of the necessary threads. At the expense of an entire film being a filler installment, however, who knows how the mass audience will react to future films, and if the Fantastic Beasts branch of the Wizarding World franchise will recover from this bump in the road. With Hollywood more competitive and crowded than ever, not even the most profitable of blockbusters is safe, and the future of the Wizarding World franchise remains to be seen.
Kathryn Spadafora can be contacted at