Quick Synopsis: Dumbledore and Newt try to stop Grindelwald rigging an election, with magic!
I’ll start with the positive. Mads Mikkelsen is great, as he always is. He replaces Johnny Depp, who was fired after abuse allegations. If there’s one thing big movies like this cannot abide, it’s abusers, especially ones that are violent towards women. By sacking Depp they made it clear that there is no room for abusers in this cast, and that any sign of someone being an abuser, even just an accusation of abuse, will immediately result in that person not being in the film.
Ezra Miller is also in this.
Him being in the cast isn’t the biggest issue with this film. The biggest issue is just how dull this is. I just stopped caring very early in. I think part of it is an issue of tone. It’s trying too hard to be magical, in a way that’s not needed. The original Harry Potter series was about magic, but it took place in our world, and it was the mesh of those two that was interesting. This is almost all magic, they have wand fights randomly, there’s no talk of secrecy, they don’t check nobody is following them. It feels like the whole series takes place in a world which has already established magic, rather than one that is hiding one from people. It doesn’t help that magic is used weirdly, just to hold a cup in the air for a few seconds. It doesn’t make the witches and wizards look magical, it just makes them seem like lazy show offs.
It also provides a tonal problem. It shows us all this magic, all these impressive visuals designed to wow us, in between dialogue telling us the world is soon to be doomed. It doesn’t feel like a world on the brink of war. We all know now what it’s like to live in a world where a war is about to start which could destroy the world, we know that feeling. We know how people react in those situations, what they talk about. And it never comes across in this. Also, personally, I think they mess up the ending. They have a happy ending, but with a sense of “but bad things might still happen”. I feel it would be better if it had a downer ending. At the moment it’s “evil will be defeated”, a “sometimes evil wins and you need to figure out how to beat it” would be more relevant to modern times, especially if they are trying to compare the character to fascist dictators. He’s already been beaten a few times in this series, so he doesn’t feel as big a threat as he could. The series is so determined that each film should have a happy ending, that it hurts the overall narrative as the bad guys don’t get any momentum. They’re three films deep into the planned five, so the series only has one film really to set up Grindelwald as a massive threat to the wizarding world.
So in summary, I just didn’t care. It’s a problem that all prequels have, we know how it ends. We know Dumbledore and Grindelwald will duel, and Dumbledore will win. Yet it’s taking 5 films to get to that point, and it’s just not interesting enough to watch. It feels like it’s trying to be a heist movie, but lacks the cleverness, one of the main characters involved in it is so underwritten that if you took out his sections you’d lose nothing. It’s weird as his character has a moment where he has the memories of his dead sister taken away from him. This should be a big emotional moment, the inner torment leading up to that moment should sell how difficult this is for him. But it’s not, his character is so blank that even he looks sad, well that’s how he looks all the time so it doesn’t hit home. Long summary I know, but I just keep thinking of more reasons to say this was dull.