Sunday, February 10, 2019

Review - The Crimes of Grindelwald

Ok, here we are… and what to say? 
Let’s start with the basics. Did I like this movie? Yes, I did. Was it what I was expecting? No, it wasn’t. The Crimes of Grindelwald is, by all aspects, a transition movie. I was kind of hoping it would be as the first one, so enchanting, engaging, and amazing, and in the end, well… it wasn’t. I couldn’t love it as I was expecting to. I repeat, I liked it, and I was able to see many aspects in which it’s been underrated. Although, I think we all know JK Rowling is better than this. 

The first thing I thought as I left the theatre is that the movie didn’t include as many fantastic beasts as I would have liked to see. There was barely a scene inside the suitcase! And the second was that I could have totally removed Newt from the story, and it would have made very little difference in the plot. And I don’t think I should ever be left thinking something like that. But still, there’s a lot of details and things I noticed, and I have A TON to say, so sit back, relax, and get ready for a million-year long review, in which, obviously, I will leave things unsaid. I can’t possible analyse every single thing, and it’s long enough as it is. So, thank you, in advance, to those that will stay that long, I really appreciate it. Oh, and this will be SPOILERY, so if you don’t want to know what happens, this is your chance to leave. BYE.

First of all, something small but worth noticing. There’s these little details scattered here and there I just couldn’t help seeing, that made me so incredibly happy, and that any Potterhead can recognize, like when, as Newt and Leta walk around in the Ministry of Magic, we can see owls flying around; Arthur Weasley explains this to Harry at one point, telling him that they used to have owls for internal communication, but ended up changing to memorandums because of the mess they made. Or later, when Newt and Jacob are about to use the portkey to go to France, and Jacob has no idea what will happen, but we see that thing that is nothing more than a dirty old bucket, and we already know. That is honestly so great. I feel both situations as a high-five from Rowling and the whole Potter team that fed our dreams for so long, and I just love them, because I feel even more a part of this amazing world. 

As for the movies to come, I’m excited with the chance to meet the wizarding communities from other parts of the world, other than the British and the American ones. Five movies, five continents, is my guess. Oh, and it may sound very simple, but I really appreciate that every single main character in this story is an adult, which gives way to a lot more possibilities than if they were kids or teenagers. Unlike with the Harry Potter series, we are not discovering this world, but fully living it. These people can use magic outside school, and have more experience than if they were still students, so there’s so much more of it ahead!

Ok, this guy.
Because it’s always nice to see Newt Artemis Fido Scamander popping out of his suitcase.

Nothing can make me love Newt any less than I do. Nothing. In any case, I’ll just love him more. He’s so unique, and interesting! He could totally get along with Hagrid and Charlie Weasley. He’s a genuine good man, and I love how everything around him is a reflection of his personality and his interests. The screenplay describes his apartment in London as “a spartan bachelor residence”, which is exactly what most things about him say. His worn clothes, his old suitcase, his barely combed hair… Everything. He’s not very concerned by his looks, nor cares a lot about what people may think of him, which is especially noticeable in the contrast with his brother, who has a certain image to maintain as an Auror for the Ministry. To really get to know Newt, you need to gain his trust, look past his physical look, and go to his basement, or inside his suitcase, because there is where his life is. Not in plain sight. Newt is a simple guy, fully devoted to what he loves the most, and is not afraid of the world’s judgement for it. He cares and loves his creatures like they are family, and I guess no one can blame Bunty, his assistant, for being hopelessly in love with him. She’s crazy about creatures, like him, and gets to see the real Newt, living his passion and being himself at all times. What’s not to love there?

By the way, I found especially funny that the Spellbound magazine mentioned Newt as a “beast tamer”, because that shows how little they care about his work. If they did, they would know that is not what he does, because that implies he uses force, which could never be true. It’s rather about caring to understand them, to get to know their true nature and find out what they are, in despite of society’s prejudice. Plus, let’s be honest, anyone who has seen the nifflers knows that there’s no possible taming there.

I really love how happy he is when he sees his friends again. He’s not close with a lot of people, showing emotion is not easy for him, and when he sees Jacob and Queenie in his living room, he even manages to hug Jacob, which is a huge breakthrough. But his face… Eddie Redmayne has very expressive eyes, and he can say a lot without a word, which is only the tip of the iceberg of what makes him one of greatest actors alive. Newt realizes one second later that, if Queenie and Jacob are there, Tina must be too, but his expression instantly drops when she’s not, and you can read disappointment all over his face, as he tries to act as if it’s no big deal. And later, when Queenie explains to him that Tina is seeing someone else after the article mislead her, he rapidly blinks and avoids eye contact, letting us see clearly what the screenplay describes as “the atmosphere tainted by Tina’s absence”. He loves his friends, but he can’t deny he wanted to see Tina. He missed her and had no idea she may be hurting for something he never meant to do. It makes me want to hug him, and the list that actors that had that effect on me at some point is very short. And later, when he reads the postcard Queenie left behind, his eyes widen at the sight of Tina’s name, and that is purely an acting choice. It’s not on the screenplay.

As for Tina
She now looks very different, in every sense of the word. Hair, clothes, posture… I love that trench coat, by the way, which, as I had the opportunity to read, it’s not black, but deep blue. My guess is that she would have looked like this in the first movie, had Newt met her when she was still an Auror. The screenplay says she is “more elegant and confident than in New York but carrying private sadness”, and, if I remember correctly, she has only one or two smiles in the entire movie. Her whole darkened aspect now fully says Auror, unlike everything she wore in the previous movie, and we can see better her true personality and courage. She has now the chance to prove who she really is, what she can do, the true reach of her strength (like if duelling Grindelwald wasn’t enough). She’s still a badass, and fiercely loyal to herself, and to MACUSA. I love when she slams Theseus into the chair and ties him up so they can keep going, because that’s the real Tina! Nobody messes with her.
It’s funny because they’ll all be family one day. But this is what I mean, this is the Tina I want to keep getting to know. The smart, brave, badass Auror that is also a selfless, sweet, lovable girl with a big heart. Because she can be all those things, and the balance is perfectly shown, when, more often than not, they seem to be like water and oil in fiction (at least with female characters). And now that she lost her sister, she will fight with all her strength and skills to save her. I can’t wait to see that. The only thing I missed about her was her being irritating, and nagging Newt like she did when she first met him. 

Newt and Tina’s relationship didn’t get very far in this movie, but I love them even more, if that’s possible. I have to tell you, guys, I love when Newt tries to find her in Paris, and upon Kama’s tentative description, he instinctively calls her beautiful.
It seems minor, but it is something I haven’t seen in so long! In my experience, the world has forgotten that calling someone beautiful instead of hot is also valid. We are women, not cups of coffee, for God’s sake! And in my perspective, the term has shifted into something so demanding that borders pain, that requires a lot of sacrifices, and apparently, has become synonymous with physical perfection, to the point that it has more value than the person you are. That is why I love this. Newt didn’t fall in love with Tina because of how she looks, but for the person she is. For the brave, caring woman she can be if given the opportunity to show it, and only after seeing that, he recognized she’s also beautiful on the outside. 

Tina doesn’t know that, of course. At first, it’s very noticeable how, as she thinks him engaged, she tries to distance herself from him, adopting this fully professional attitude and barely talking to him, calling him Mr. Scamander instead of Newt, and trying to pretend nothing ever happened between them. Which, in a certain way, is true. At most there was hope, and tender feelings. We know that they exchanged letters, but not what they said. The screenplay tells us that “each has thought of the other daily for a year”, but, clearly, he wasn’t there to give her his book in person, as he said he would, because they only meet again in Paris and she’s already read it.
Once he clarifies things, stating that he’s not the one getting married, things instantly change between them, as they both try to say what they’ve been meaning to since they were reunited. It’s impossibly sweet. The fact that he carries her picture in his pocket surprises and moves Tina, because when she thought he had forgotten her after playing with her heart, in fact he had been thinking of her the whole time. There’s acting choices in this scene too, and they’re perfect. For one, Tina is incredibly touched, and as Newt rambles on an on, she’s doesn’t stop looking at him in awe, and even bites her lip, like not believing such cuteness and awkwardness all together in one guy. And as for Newt, although the screenplay says nothing, we can see how he drops his wand as he tries to speak, gets all nervous and stutters… Like I have said before, Eddie Redmayne and Katherine Waterston are both the perfect casting choice for these two.

Newt telling Tina she has eyes like a salamander is utterly priceless. It can’t get more authentic than that. That is Newt Scamander, ladies and gentlemen! Jacob had previously tried to dissuade him from using that as a compliment, and told him what to tell her: that he missed her, that he went to Paris because she was there… And all those things may be true –because they are–, but they are nothing but platitudes. Any other guy could say that. But this is Newt we are talking about. He’s unique. That compliment has his personal signature, as I can’t imagine anyone else saying something like that. Tina simply has to admit she will never, ever meet anyone like Newt!
The way they look at each other says it all. You don’t hear every day that your eyes are like light in darkness, magical, unforgettable. She understands what he means and finds it endearing, because she knows what his creatures mean to him, that they are his life, and he loves them more than anything. This is a couple worth rooting for, because what I see is this relationship helping them become their best version, which is more than I can say about most of the romances I know. They both are better people when they are together. And look how. Tina didn’t smile a lot before Newt, sunk by the weight of her mistakes, and her strong commitment with duty and justice, taking action even when it wasn’t her place to do so. She hung on the balance, on the verge of losing everything, and was almost forgotten by the world, until she met him, and things started to change. And Newt, although naturally caring, is shy, and not good in dealing with people, but he’s making the effort because there’s someone he cares enough as to at least try to. Breaking through his awkwardness to talk to people in general is never easy for him, but he’s doing his best when it comes to Tina. He is willing to do what makes him uncomfortable for her. And if that is not blooming love, then I don’t know what it is. In a film and literary world in which, apparently, romances can’t work without constant lust, or without unnecessary drama that overcomplicates everything, this is beautiful, and strongly meaningful, in its simplicity.

Alright, moving on. I’d like to briefly talk about Theseus Scamander, Newt’s older brother.
This is a character I never expected to see here. By the way, Eddie Redmayne and Callum Turner could totally be brothers in real life, as they are so physically similar. From my perspective, I see Theseus as everything Newt should do, or what everyone expected Newt to become. He’s like the conventional, respectable Scamander Newt will never be. I find funny that one of the brothers is named after an animal (or a scientist, if you go for Newton), and the other, after a mythical beast slayer. It shows how different they are, and moreover, it’s like practically expected from Theseus to be a hero. He is mentioned as a war hero in the first movie, and I really want to know more about that. Oh, and also, I’d love to know more about their parents! They are not mentioned at all, but the book says that their mother was a hippogriff breeder, and she was the one that made Newt interested in magical creatures in the first place. I also want to know more about Theseus and Leta’s relationship. What happened there that Leta ended up preferring Theseus and broke Newt’s heart? Because, upon seeing the Spellbound picture, it is clear why they would confuse Leta with his fiancée, in the way she leans on him, how proud she looks, how she smiles… No one would deduce she’s not going to marry him, but his brother. It’s an honest mistake. 

I need to talk about Leta Lestrange for a minute.
What a character. Wow. I only appreciated her complexity with a second look. She has JK Rowling’s trademark, as I came here ready to hate her, and in the end, I couldn’t. Everything about her already predisposes us for it, starting with her last name. Lestrange is not exactly any last name, as it is heavy with darkness, attached to character we can’t but hate. Also, seeing her in Slytherin robes, and cursing a Gryffindor girl, immediately creates a bad reputation. Plus, before that, we only knew Leta as the cause of Newt’s broken heart, and as Tina’s rival. But she’s overall deeper than that. In general, Leta’s character is presented as a beautiful, pureblood witch that’s about to honour that by marrying someone of her same status. She seems to have it all. But her external appearance is a sham. She glows like a jewel, but in reality, she’s weak as the flame in a candle, secretly fragile and guilt-ridden for the secrets she carries. 

I understood and loved her early friendship with Newt in school. Before him, we see her bullied and feared, with everybody thinking her weird and wicked without even considering her history, the tale she never told anyone, and that never let her be free. She had genuine reasons to be like that. Think about it! Since she was born, she never knew happiness. Her father never even wanted her, much less loved her, and her mother didn’t live long enough for it. But Newt –just as he always does with his creatures– decided to understand her before judging her. He talked to her when no one else did. He let her in his world without questioning her, sharing what made him happy. Just like that baby raven he was nursing when she found him in Hogwarts, Leta was hurting and couldn’t handle it on her own, and needed a friendly hand, a gesture that didn’t say hate but love. Something she never had. Newt didn’t ask questions, and genuinely cared for her, and wanted to be her friend even in her dark times, after an entire life in which she felt as nothing but a burden for everyone. No wonder she would love him. And all this is what makes me think that, when she said I love you, it was for Newt, because we can see why. We don’t know enough about her relationship with Theseus to think otherwise, to see why she ended up engaged to him instead of Newt. Reputation, perhaps? We don’t know for sure, and I don’t think we ever will now. But I liked the fact that she, even with everything that happened to her, could gather her strength for one last fight. Yes, she paid for her mistakes. But she died a hero, defending those she loved the most. 

As for the contrast between Leta and Tina, I’d like to briefly compare them to see how different they are. I once referred to Tina as someone who could easily get lost in a crowd, because of her clothes and her look in general. And although she still can, it’s not the same. She looks different and her mixing in the crowd is now a requirement of her job, not an inevitable consequence of her circumstances, like it used to be. And Leta, well… She always wears these detailed, elegant designs, with expensive, rich-coloured fabrics, and deep necklines, and it’s more like a striking, sexy look. This woman doesn’t go unnoticed in any possible way. If she’s is in the room, you will see her. She’s beautiful and elegant, attractive in an obvious kind of way, while Tina is more of a sweet, caring woman with a low profile, who took care of her family when she had to, and gives everything out for others. Sounds familiar?
Just like with Newt, to get to know Tina, you need to honestly care. Her beauty is less dazzling, but still worth noticing. But Leta, at least, had genuine reasons to be a taker. She never had anything, and when she could, she tried to have as much as possible. We should not see her as the villain because of that. 

Ok, let’s move on. 

In my previous review I said the Wizarding World was ahead of its time, and it is, in many ways. Except for that ridiculous rule they have in the American community. 
I agree with Newt. It’s absurd. Queenie wants to rebel against that, and tries to protect Jacob in the previous movie, standing before him, trying to shield him from Madame Picquery’s sight, so he wouldn’t have to be obliviated. She really loves him, and although it was wrong to take him to London under a spell, she did it because she knew he would never go on his own. Queenie is definitely different in this movie, and you can see it in her costumes already. The girl with the perfect hair, and in pink, silky dresses, was left behind, replaced by a stronger figure in tweed and overall darker tones. 
I was not expecting that twist in her character, but I guess her outfits were the first clue. She doesn’t even smile much, and everything about her says internal struggle. There’s not much to say about her and Jacob, as they are barely together in this one, although Jacob tries to find her in Paris during the whole story. He truly loves her, and doesn’t want to lose her, but neither wants anything bad happening to her because of him. I can’t wait to see the part Jacob will play in this whole mess. He’s not a wizard, after all, but he won’t stop until he gets Queenie back, and I’m excited to see what will happen. Plus, I love his friendship with Newt, and how he’s slowly warming up to the magic around him. It’s very funny to see him as he tries to help Newt with his people skills, especially when he fails in speaking to Tina as he should. He’s still the comic relief, but in a realistic kind of way, as the foreigner in this world of magic he’s just starting to know a little better, unlike Newt, whose funny parts come mostly from his personality traits. But Queenie… I’m afraid we lost her to the other side. At least for now. Which gives me the opportunity to talk about this guy we call Gellert Grindelwald.
I got to tell you, that final speech is captivating, in the way that he encourages his followers to violence without using it. He shows them who the real villains are, and how it is in their hands to put a stop to them, ending wars, and suffering, if they just take the power for themselves. Notice that not for himself alone, as Voldemort wants, but for the whole wizard kind. A power he thinks, is rightfully theirs. An attractive concept, isn’t it? However, he makes them prove their loyalty by literally walking through fire. You don’t just take his side. Only his true followers can walk through his flames and come out alive on the other side. If you doubt, you burn. That way, he ensures that there’s no double-cross, no second thoughts. Just pure loyalty. And I’ve never, ever seen something like that. He’s different from any other villain I’ve ever known, because his weapon is not fear. He’s like the human version of the Mirror of Erised!

As he masqueraded as Mr. Graves, he took some liberties that clearly hid something behind, that were not simply his job. The perfect example is sentencing Newt and Tina to death like that, without reliable evidence, after Newt’s creatures gave him the perfect scapegoat to state his claim that the damages in New York were caused by a beast. I personally think that, given how Newt and Tina are, he knew they would never take his side. There was no weakness there he could exploit. His motives come from the conviction that wizards should be the superior race, because of their power, and his claim gains him fanatics all over the world. One can see why this idea would tempt them, but Newt and Tina are not ambitious like that (besides that they could see right through his shady plan). Grindelwald’s followers are not like Voldemort’s Death Eaters, and he doesn’t gather them the same way. Look at the way he used to get Credence to cooperate, and how he snagged Queenie. He doesn’t use force, or threats. He appeals to their hearts, and uses promises as his weapon. Credence has magic, even if rotten and uncontrollable, and can be very strong. It’s useful for him to have him by his side. By giving him a wand and revealing his name (true or not), he is both answering his most pressing question, and granting his greatest wish. Don’t tell me that is not a smart move. But since that is not very detailed, I can’t say more. I just have one single question: is Credence really Aurelius Dumbledore, or that is just who Grindelwald needs him to be for his plans, for the time being? It wouldn’t be the first time he creates a bait like that, after all. If Albus finds out he has another sibling, he won’t let him end up like Ariana, her death being his lifelong torture. Grindelwald knows it. And like this, Credence works as the perfect shield, because as far as he is with him, Dumbledore won’t dare attack. It’s brilliant.

As for Queenie, well… if there’s something Grindelwald proved he’s good at, is at exploiting the pain of others, but smoothly enough as for them not to notice. My point is that, to gain her and Credence, Grindelwald attacked their vulnerability with honey-coated promises, making them act on their own free will. Queenie has a big heart, and her only wish is to be free to love whoever she wants. One would think that couldn’t be used for evil. But Grindelwald talks to Queenie’s feelings and purity, and actually gives her a choice. And this is what I mean. It’s like having the chance to step into the Mirror of Erised after seeing what you want the most. You have to be made of stone not to fall for that. 

What I don’t think Grindelwald knows so far is that Queenie is a Legilimens, and she should do as she has been so far, keeping that to herself. It can make her a huge difference in his game, and if he finds out, he won’t let her go so easy.

And finally, Nagini. Another thing I never saw coming.

She’s a Maledictus, which is like the dark version of being an animagus, because she doesn’t have control over her transformations. It’s a blood curse, and apparently, that makes her a circus freak, because she doesn’t have a wand, meaning that she will never be a part of the regular wizarding society (if she ever was). She can control it for now, but she will eventually find her transformations more difficult, finally ending her days as a snake, unable to transform back. And that is a wildly interesting concept that raises a lot of questions. It’s interesting to get to see this, since Voldemort, besides everything he did, was a collector of unique things, and that is why he picked the objects he did to be his Horcruxes. Not ordinary things, but things with an immense historical value, that were one of a kind: Slytherin’s locket, Hufflepuff’s cup, Ravenclaw’s diadem… Unrepeatable treasures, with a huge meaning. We already know where and how Nagini will eventually end, but in the Harry Potter series there’s not much about it, besides that it’s not a regular snake, and Voldemort needs it to survive until he can have his own body. We don’t know where he got her from, and in general, she poses a blank canvas, that Rowling can fill the way she thinks best, giving her a past and a personality, before the inevitable happens. It’s an opportunity that is there for the taking, and I hope it leads somewhere interesting. My theory is that she will ultimately turn into a snake, to never transform back, because of a broken heart, as she is in love with Credence, but we’ll see.


I think that’s it. Thank you so much for all those who stayed this long, I know this must have been exhausting. I appreciate it, from the bottom of my heart. Please leave your comments below, and again, thank you.

‘till next time!