I am not entirely sure why I didn’t go to see this one when it was in theatres, but I think mostly it was for two reasons: 1) the previous Fantastic Beasts movie wasn’t that fantastic, and 2) the replacement of Johnny Depp with Mads Mikkelson as the pre-Voldemort fascist allegory, Gellert Grindelwald.
It’s not that I don’t approve of that decision, given the problematic nature of Depp as a person. (Though, one might argue, he’s not that much more problematic than J. K. Rowling.) It’s just that, though their time on screen was limited, there was a very real chemistry between Depp’s Grindelwald and Jude Law’s Dumbledore, and for all Mikkelson’s accomplishment as an actor of great presence and menace, I just don’t see him as a romantic lead.
Of course, the story here isn’t really about the one-time romance between these two enemies, back when they were united in their ideals and wanted to change the world together. (Their dynamic is all very Professor X and Magneto, actually, except that their once tender feelings are made explicit, and any Charles/Eric love story belongs squarely in the realms of fanfic.) Instead, we mostly deal with Grindelwald’s growing cult of Dark Side wizardry as they attempt to wrest control of the Wizarding World and ultimately go to war with Muggledom, mostly for the usual “pureblood” reasons, because that is the only motive for any evil megalomaniacal wizard to go to war, apparently.
Of course, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and his CGI magical creatures, along with sundry sidekicks and the titular Dumbledore, find themselves in constant peril as they strive to save the day, and while there are a few moments of tension, it all feels a little bit by-the-numbers—and some of those numbers simply don’t add up, as we are treated to such plot nonsense as a crazed mob first cheering the prospect of a war on Muggles, and then setting of wand-based fireworks in joy at the election of a non-warmongering witch with amazing taste in gowns—and that is just one example.
I’m also not sure that too many of Dumbledore’s secrets were actually revealed here – except for when he kept on outing himself, I guess – so the title seems a bit misleading, too. But it was all… fine… I didn’t dislike it… there were some decent character redemption arcs, one excellent line that especially resonated with me (NEWT: “He doesn’t want to lead you, he just wants you to follow him.”), and I do enjoy the Wizarding World in general, so I’m happy that I watched it.
No disrespect to Mads Mikkelson, though, but I do think it would have been better with Johnny Depp in it. Is it just me?
Based on characters created by J. K. Rowling
Written by: J. K. Rowling, Steve Kloves
Directed by: David Yates
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Jude Law, Mads Mikkelson, Ezra Miller, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, William Nadylam. Callum Turner, Jessica Williams, Richard Coyle
WHERE I WATCHED IT: Netflix.