Yesterday I posted my spoiler free review of The Crimes of Grindelwald which probably ended up being one of the longer posts I’ve written lately. And there was definitely more I wanted to say. Despite coming out of the film feeling fairly positive, in the week since I watched it I’ve become more and more angry about certain things. Driving home on the evening I was bemoaning the changes in timeline and it’s something that hasn’t stopped since. So, I’ve done the unthinkable and purposefully broken my book review streak in order to get some stuff off my chest. I have a history, on this blog, of ranting about J.K. Rowling and this year has been a good year for angry content about her. That was mainly concerned with the fact that Johnny Depp continues to star in the blockbuster franchise despite his worrying personal life. Not only the possibility that he is a domestic abuser but also has a constant struggle with drugs and alcohol. I found it sad that a writer who wrote a series about not letting entitled bullies get their own way would allow an actor to get away with such troubling behaviour and still get paid a shit-ton of money. But, let’s be honest, he pulls in the viewing numbers and, these days, that’s all that seems to matter.
I’m not trying to say that Rowling no longer cares about her franchise but it’s difficult to see her now without seeing George Lucas coming through a little bit. It’s also hard not to compare the first two Fantastic Beasts films to the first two films in Lucas’ Star Wars prequels. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them had the same childish and pandering feeling that The Phantom Menace had. Then The Crimes of Grindelwald decided to walk the same dark path in the hopes it would remove itself from its more kid focused predecessor. Let’s be honest, the film series actually have an awful lot in common when you really study them. The films are all building to a massive showdown between two former friends who find themselves on different sides. They’re the prequel films to a much-loved franchise that has been around for a good few years now and whose fans are sometimes worryingly obsessive. And, nowadays, they are being torn apart for not living up to the legacy of the original films.
People will continue to defend the films because, really, they aren’t the worst things being made out there. But you can’t give them a free pass just because you liked the originals or the source material. These are the first films that J.K. Rowling has been responsible for writing herself and it shows. Over the years she has improved as a writer but there is no getting away from the fact that she isn’t the best. She’s always had problems with editing, character development, narrative structure, and throwing too many ideas into the pot. This is forgivable in a novel but simply won’t work on the big screen. And it is painfully obvious in The Crimes of Grindelwald. So, in order to work through my issues in a structured manner, I intend to write a few posts this week to set out the most annoying things about this film, in my opinion. The real crimes of Grindelwald if you will.
Starting with the big one: the changes to the canon. This is the thing that had me so angry before I even saw the film. Every piece of news about who was returning and what was happening just got me riled up. It is the disrespect that Rowling has to her own canon that most clearly links her with George Lucas. Both of them have taken us to an earlier time period in order to better explain why things happened the way they did in the later films. At the same time, both of them have retroactively changed things that had already been set down. And Rowling is in an even worse position than Lucas because she wrote everything in a book or on Pottermore. Her desperate attempt to wring as much blood out of her Harry Potter stone as possible has really come back to bite her when she started fucking around with timelines. And, for the time being, it all seems really unnecessary and pointless.
The worst offender of this is McGonagall. Her appearance in this film added nothing to the narrative and was only there as fan service. It existed in a desperate attempt to further connect the new franchise to the films and books that so many people adore. Yet, Rowling set out the timeline of Minerva’s life in enough detail that we know it can’t have happened. She wasn’t even born at the time this film happened. And I know there will be people out there saying “oh, but what if it’s her mum or something?” Well, what the fuck is the point of that? But also, that’s not part of the biography that J.K. Rowling wrote. Isobel Ross, Minerva’s mother, gave up the wizarding world to marry a muggle. So she couldn’t have been a teacher at Hogwarts. So, the only explanation for this is that it is our McGonagall and she only appears in the films so people watching go “oh, I know her! That’s so exciting.” And that’s a terrible reason for doing something.
Then there’s the fact that Nagini, the snake who followed Voldemort around for 7 books and 8 films, actually used to be a woman with a blood curse. You can try to defend it any way you want but this piece of retconning has a massive impact on the 7 books. J.K. Rowling can say “I’ve always known this to be true” as much as she wants but why wasn’t it in the canon? Now, instead of bravely killing a snake horcrux, everyone’s favourite cinnamon roll, Neville Longbottom, is a straight-up murderer. He actually beheaded a woman with the sword of Gryffindor at the age of 17. And it would be fine if Nagini actually fucking did something in this film but she doesn’t. She just stands in the background looking worried and wearing sexy dresses. Oh, and to push the idea that Credence could actually be a young Tom Riddle, even though that never made any sense and wasn’t believable in the slightest.
Speaking of Credence, and the getting to the first big spoiler of the night, the final reveal is one of the most outrageous and stupid pieces of retconning ever. And I’m only remaining as calm as I am about it (seriously, I was way more incensed about McGonagall than I was about the ending) is because I don’t believe it. A secret Dumbledore child? I call major bullshit on that one. For one thing, the timeline does not fit: by the time Credence is born Albus’ mum is dead and his dad’s in Azkaban so neither are really in a position for making new babies. But it’s all way too convenient. Remember how annoyed a lot of fans were after The Last Jedi when it was revealed that Rey wasn’t the secret Granddaughter of Obi Wan and was just some rando? Well, I applaud that because life doesn’t end up being that neat. Unless it’s written by J.K. Rowling. In my rant about the vomit-inducing epilogue, I bemoaned the neatness of the final few pages. Everyone married their first love and had children at the exact same time. It’s so perfect it could be a Shakespeare play. Well, that’s what this Dumbledore reveal feels like. She’s forcing connections between the books she wrote years ago and the terrible films she continues to push on her fans. But then again, I don’t believe it’s true, which is a whole other rant in itself. And it’s time to move on.
But sticking with Dumbledore for a second, why the fuck was he teaching Defence Against the Dark Arts anyway? We all know that Albus was a transfiguration teacher. But I guess now McGonagall has turned up to work 30 years too soon, there was a need to move him to a different department. The scene with him introducing his students to the Boggart was one of the worst pieces of fan service on screen. It is stolen straight out of Prisoner of Azkaban, which is criminally lazy, and it adds nothing to the narrative. Okay, it introduces us to the idea that Leta was hiding something but it does it really badly. It tries to be funny but fails on that score too. It’s just a pointless scene that calls back to a much better and more loved film.
And then there’s this fucking blood pact. I kind of get why they didn’t just want to rely on an unbreakable vow as the reason Albus and Gellert can’t fight each other but there are so any issues with this. First question, when are they supposed to have sorted it out? If it was before Arianna died then they shouldn’t have been able to fight each other in the three-way duel with Aberforth. Unless we find out that the reason Arianna was killed as punishment for breaking the pact but, again, this retroactively changes something we’ve already established in the books. If it was after the fight, then what the fuck are they doing? Why is Albus, after his sister has just been killed, taking the time to make a blood pact with one of the people who may have been responsible? Why is Grindelwald sticking around long enough to make the pact? It doesn’t make any sense!
Finally for this post, and about bloody time too, there’s the changing of wand law that was so important to the final book. In book 6 of Harry Potter, Draco Malfoy disarmed Albus Dumbledore and became the, unknowing, master of the Elder Wand. Then Harry, after disarming Draco, became the master of both Draco’s wand and the Elder Wand itself. J.K. spent so fucking long in that book explaining how wand law works yet she happily goes back on that in the two Fantastic Beasts films. In the first film Tina disarms Percival Graves and takes his wand. We find out that Graves is actually Grindelwald in disguise so, whether the wand she took was the Elder Wand or not, she should be its master now. Meaning the Elder Wand Grindelwald now wields should be answering to her and not him. Yet, as we have seen, Tina was wasted and Grindelwald had no problem with his equipment. How is J.K. Rowling happily breaking her own fucking rules?
Anyway, I’ve ranted way too long about this and need to stop. I’m sure there are other things I’ve missed and other points I wanted to raise but enough is enough. I’ll return on Friday to share some more film-centric issues I had with The Crimes of Grindelwald which will hopefully be more constructive and less ranty… but probably not. I’m very annoyed about the whole thing.
Who is Murdocal? A casual critic who is a little bit too obsessed with pop culture. A young woman who swears and rants much more than she knows she should whilst trying to make her way in an adult world she isn't prepared for. A not as recent as she'd like literature graduate who, between job applications and subsequent rejections, has turned to the internet to fight the boredom and review the shit out of everything.
"Maybe, just maybe, I'm the faller. Every family has someone who falls, who doesn't make the grade, who stumbles, who life trips up. Maybe I'm our faller."