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How J.K. Rowling Ruined Grindelwald

Jess

Jess

Currently a film major with a focus in directing and a passion for all things writing, film, television and theater, oh my!
Jess
Warning: This article contains spoilers for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them! Proceed with Caution.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the first of a five movie saga (what happened to nice clean trilogies?), is now downloadable! Thus, yours truly has finally watched it after missing the initial theater release. The next installment of films set in Rowling’s wizarding world received pretty good reviews. However, like most of what we’ve seen out of Rowling recently, out of all the possibilities of expansive and interesting stories teased in her original novels, following Newt Scamander wasn’t the most initially enticing.

Yet, the Potter nerd within me couldn’t resist. I found the film quite enjoyable, actually. It’s definitely a step up for David Yates as director after he produced what I considered the worst of the Potter films. Yet, I found myself incredibly frustrated by the the b-storyline centering around Grindelwald.

Why Newt?

Sorry Eddie, but your Newt didn’t do it for me. He certainly made ALL the choices when it came to mannerisms didn’t he?

First of all, the filmmakers announced the series would be following Grindelwald, not Newt. The fifth film will end in 1945 with the infamous battle between Grindelwald and Dumbledore. With that in mind, Fantastic Beasts seems like the wrong place to start this series.

Newt barely worked as a character for me. He only came alive those moments when we were in his case with him. Had they wanted to make a standalone film about Newt, he would have made a fine protagonist. And it makes me wonder if that’s what Fantastic Beasts had originally been meant to be.

Is he exceptionally interesting? No, but definitely adequate. The message, which often felt lost in all the hubbub, of protecting the rights of magical creatures would have made a strong theme for his own movie. (I won’t bring up the fact that he had had a muggle animal carcass lying around in his case, cause that’s different). In a world where we missed out on seeing Hermione’s fight for Elfish welfare in the film adaptation of Goblet of Fire, seeing more of the wizarding prejudice and cruelty brought to life would have been interesting.

Which then leads me to ask, does Newt not care about the rights of House Elves either? Is Hermione the only witch to have ever given a second thought to the enslavement of a magical creature? A creature so commonplace in the Wizarding community? Sorry for the tangent but Newt may need to extend his ideals beyond the animal world.

In the film, we hear Newt mention more than once that he’s attempting to “gently” teach his fellow wizards about compassion for their fellow magical creatures. It totally reminded me of when I not-so-subtly attempted to educate my friends and family about veganism (not that I think the film is about veganism). But, it was the one point in the movie where I connected to Newt and what he wanted. It was a strong core of ideals for his character, but it was lost as soon as the bigger plot with Credence and Grindelwald took center stage. Newt actually seemed unconcerned with Credence at the end of it, yet Credence could have fixed the focus issue. He could have brought Newt’s wants and values into the overarching plot of the series and tied it to Grindelwald.

Despite the potential plot with Newt and magical animal rights, this is the setup of a five film series about Grindelwald, his rise and his fall. We’re meant to understand this will lead us to the final battle with Dumbledore before he’s thrown into Nurmengard. The subtlety of weaving in a dark power wreaking havoc on the wizarding community and the panic and fear that it induces was an intriguing setting. It could have worked well, but instead the film functions as if it were a set up for two different franchises.

What do I mean by that? Fantastic Beasts could have been many things. It could have been the jumping off point for a series about Newt. A series about his adventures fighting for the rights of magical creatures. This could have been an interesting inciting moment where this scholarly wizard had his one brush with the greatest dark wizard of all time (before Voldemort). It would have also worked to establish the general panic, confusion, and fear that someone with Grindelwald’s power and message can create. Thus, it could have set the tone for a separate Grindelwald series as well.

Instead, we’re meant to believe that this was the setup for a single story with both of these plots. Somehow Newt Scamander, studier of magical creatures, is intwined with Gellert Grindelwald. Grindelwald who was the biggest threat to the world before Voldemort’s rise. It’s not believable, and it’s also not interesting. With Newt at the center, the threat of Grindelwald holds no weight. Newt’s not effected by any of it. We see this when he strolls unaware and unprepared into the current state of hysteria in New York.

Not to mention that within all that, Rowling, paints Grindelwald into the antithesis of what he functioned as in her original novels. It happens before our very eyes. We see the three dimensional and dynamic possibility, along with Colin Farrell’s compelling performance, fade into the bland piece of one dimensional cardboard cutout of evil that is Johnny Depp’s older Grindelwald.

Where’s the Nuance?

I must confess that I was one of the few fans who, when craving more content and more stories set in Rowling’s sprawling world, thought not of the Marauders but rather of Dumbledore and Grindelwald’s origins. The pair had always intrigued me. Their relationship and what it meant to both of them broke down the caricatures. It deconstructed the wise mentor archetype that Rowling saddled Dumbledore with in the beginning of the tale. It granted nuance to a face of evil that we had failed to see with Voldemort.

Voldemort was always the embodiment of pure evil, unable to change, never faltering. Grindelwald was the opposite. Grindelwald and Dumbledore are essentially the Magneto and Professor X of Harry Potter. While Grindelwald’s horrific ideals of “the greater good” are terrifying and the atrocities he committed to achieve it unacceptable, he wasn’t as black and white as Voldemort. He and Dumbledore started in the same place in Godric’s Hollow and only ended up so far away from one another due to Ariana.

Also, why are we starting a Dumbledore and Grindelwald series after their splintering? I want Harry Potter: First Class.

The way he acts as a foil for Dumbeldore only goes to show that Grindelwald isn’t “pure evil”. He’s horrific and a villain, no doubt, but the nuance is what makes him intriguing and all the more horrifying.

 

Dumbledore, as he states in the “King’s Cross” chapter of Deathly Hallows, could be Grindelwald. He wasn’t so far off, nor were his ideals. He states that if Ariana’s death hadn’t put things into perspective for him, he would have gone down that path. Had he ever sought a position of power, like the Minister of Magic so often offered to him, he could have regressed. He could have returned to being the Dumbledore huddled over papers with Grindelwald speaking of the “greater good” and the Hallows in Godric’s Hollow. Very little separates the two. It’s that relationship, that core bond and similarity, that forced the two against one another in the end. It’s also what is so intriguing.

Grindelwald was power hungry, idealistic, and willing to do whatever it took to achieve his goals. (Sound familiar?) He believed that the true place for wizard kind was not in hiding. Their power meant they were destined to rule the Muggles. Grindelwald thought that a reclamation of their power would be for the best for everyone. That Muggles would be safer and better off under wizarding rule. “For the Greater Good,” as he put it.

As I hinted at earlier, its the Magneto and Professor X argument about mutant kind. It’s not all that subtle, but it is ever so effective. After all, any time those two meet, their middle ground is the most intriguing part of their confrontations. Same with Grindelwald and Dumbledore. Grindelwald doesn’t want to kill every Muggle and Muggle-born like Voldemort. Voldemort’s ideal of a mass extermination is so evil one can’t deny his utter vileness. There’s no going back for a villain that evil, which is the climax of Harry’s final battle with him. Harry realizes there’s no saving someone like Voldemort even as he urges remorse.

Grindelwald is supremely horrific and commits horrible crimes in the name of “the greater good”, most definitely. But, in the end what makes him different and more interesting is that there are (very) small points of his argument that are understandable. It was the ground on which he and Dumbledore first walked on in Godric’s Hollow, even before they stumbled upon the whole “greater good” mentality.

He is human. With that humanity comes empathy. Not sympathy, for sure, but understanding. At the point in Dealthy Hallows when Voldemort confronts him to secure the Elder Wand, it becomes strikingly clear the two forms of villainy Rowling was painting. Voldemort, lusty and hungry for power, never stops. He never changes or relents. He is willing to do whatever it takes to kill Harry Potter, rule the wizarding world, and submit Muggles and Muggle-borns to mass persecution and execution.

It’s not a bad picture I promise, just a weird and ridiculously distorted wide angle lens they used for this sequence.

Grindelwald, however, shows a shred of remorse. His final act shows that his years at Nurmengard actually changed him. He was changeable. When Voldemort asked him for the location of the Elder Wand, instead of confessing the truth and telling him Dumbledore won it in their infamous duel, he lies. He claims he never had it, knowing full well that his life would end there and then. Instead of allowing Voldemort to break into Dumbledore’s tomb, Grindelwald evinces the lingering and long-thought lost humanity that has always been inside of him. He uses the last moments of his life to do the only thing he could do to make what little amends he could to his old companion.

Perhaps we should have known the film series would destroy all this nuance. It should have been obvious when this scene played out on our screens in the first part of the film adaptation of Deathly Hallows in a very different way. Instead of securing the end of his life by concealing the place of the Elder Wand and the sanctity of Dumbledore’s tomb, Grindelwald outright tells Voldemort its location and final possessor. After that it should have been clear. It should have shown us that this was the Grindelwald the films would be interested in adapting.

Although with Rowling at the helm of Fantastic Beasts one would have hoped for something different. Where’s all that nuance Rowling? You gave him more nuance on those few pages than you did in the movie he was actually present in.

Touching on that nuance would have been perfectly exemplified by the involvement of the film’s ultimate plot point: the introduction of the Obscurial. An Obscurial is a young witch or wizard that, after years of suppressing their magic due to some sort of trauma, develops an Obscurus. They often lose control, leading to violent outbursts of dark and powerful magic.

Ariana Dumbledore

It’s hinted that Grindelwald had an encounter with an Obscurial before, an encounter that would change his life. Muggles harassed Dumbledore’s younger sister, Ariana, for doing magic. They had seen how this trauma ultimately lead to her refusal to use her powers. Her suppression led to violent outbursts that she couldn’t control, as described by Aberforth Dumbledore in the novels. And Ariana was what drew the wedge between Dumbledore and Grindelwald. She not only represented a home that he couldn’t leave after his mother’s death, but also the future that he and Grindelwald hoped to build together.

People like her were a driving force for people like Dumbledore and Grindelwald and their frustration with wizard-kind hiding and cowering, afraid of detection.

He told me what a stupid little boy I was, trying to stand in the way of him and my brilliant brother…didn’t I understand my poor sister wouldn’t have to be hidden once they’d change the world, and led the wizards out of hiding, and taught the Muggle’s their place? – Aberforth Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Grindelwald-as-Graves has a line after the MACUSA kill Credence. He asks them who that law actually protects. What kind of law is it when it leads to this type of emotional and psychical abuse of children? Who does it protect when it leads to the death of a kid who just needed help? Like Magneto, this type of a villain has a valid point. He has seen suffering and wants to act on it. It’s infinitely more interesting than a pure evil, power hungry maniac. The humanity makes him all the more terrifying because you can understand where it’s coming from.

Colin Farrell gave it all and more, only to turn into Johnny Depp.

Yet, the relationship with Credence isn’t stressed. At least not to the point where you would ever think Grindelwald actually cared about his second interaction with an Obscurial. This was his second chance. His moment to perhaps save someone this time. However, leaving all that out left the powerful line of his to the MACUSA flat. In what seems to be a scene that is the opposite of subtle or nuanced, he even tells Credence that he is a worthless squib. This causes Credence to reveal his true nature as the Obscurial in anger. It was ‘evil villain dialogue’ to a T.

Then, at the end, after the MACUSA blast a tormented and abused child to death for their law (would that be “for the greater good” then?), I found myself siding with him. Or at least I did, while I thought he was still Graves. But no one else in the film does, and our protagonists certainly don’t. In fact, they barely have a reaction to anything going on in that moment at all. No one cares about what Grindelwald-as-Graves is saying, but he brings up a good point.

There’s a layer to his argument that makes sense and after seeing an emotionally and physically traumatized child killed before your eyes. You should question the morality of the MACUSA, who, after all, made use of the death sentence earlier in the film. You understand what Grindelwald means and that’s both what is interesting and what is scary. He’s right. Who is their law protecting? What makes them so different than him? They’re just fighting for the protection of opposite sides. It doesn’t make what he’s been doing to make his point morally right, but he does have a point.

When you kill abused children in the name of the law, there’s more going on here than the black and white battle of good versus evil. However, without thinking or hesitating, our protagonists immediately side with the MACUSA, securing Grindelwald’s capture. There’s no hesitation. Seeing as how they are meant to be our eyes into the story, we aren’t supposed to second guess the MACUSA’s actions either.

The point of Grindelwald is that he’s supposed to be able to gain reasonable supporters and not just bigots. He’s playing on something many wizards have feared and thus they find a champion in his ideals. The Obscurial plot line should marry perfectly well with that notion, but instead it’s barely an afterthought.

Not to mention the god-awful look they gave Johnny Depp at the end. He looks less human than Ralph Fiennes’ Voldemeort. A monster persona is the opposite of what Grindelwald represents. Not all bad wizards are inhumanely bad. Not all bad wizards are uniquely flat out evil. It’s why the most interesting moments of Voldemort are his memories, when we see him before he went past the point of no return. Grindelwald inhabits in this grayer realm (in the books, that is). It’s a realm of nuance. But instead, Fantastic Beasts paints him as a horrifying one note monster, from his appearance down to his behavior.

What’s that? Questionable Implications?

Implications! My favorite subject! Many have already called Rowling for citing Dumbledore as gay “representation”. Meaning he’s gay despite the fact that it is never outright stated in the novel, only presented as subtext. Yet, on expanding Dumbledore and Grindelwald’s relationship as well as their characters in Fantastic Beasts, Rowling has a chance to correct her wrongs. Although, judging by her interviews and what has been set up in this film, it seems like she might only be digging herself further into a hole.

According to Rowling, Dumbledore’s feelings for Grindelwald were never reciprocated. Instead, the relationship we see play out between Grindelwald-as-Graves and Credence in Fantastic Beats is more or less what conspired between the two young men that summer in Godric’s Hollow.

I think he was a user and a narcissist, and I think someone like that would use it, would use the infatuation. I don’t think that he would reciprocate in that way, although he would be as dazzled by Dumbledore as Dumbledore was by him, because he would see in Dumbledore, ‘My God, I never knew there was someone as brilliant as me, as talented as me. Together, we are unstoppable!’ So I think he would take anything from Dumbledore to have him on his side.- J.K. Rowling

We once again see gay sexuality as subtext in Fantastic Beasts. It’s a subtext painted more as an allegory than a piece of representation. Not to mention that if the relationship we see between Credence and Grindelwald-as-Graves is what Grindelwald’s relationship with Dumbledore was like, there is an alarming sense of manipulation and victimhood that comes with Rowling’s one and only instance of “representation”.

Why does it have to be one sided and abusive? In this film franchise, she has what most authors do not. She has a chance to correct herself on something she has been criticized for in the years since she wrote the books.

There is also something more realistic and vivid about a fast and toxic summer fling than a fast and toxic friendship. Romances move fast. People get in deep quickly. It also presents a more apt relationship and arc for the two of them if they actually did care about one another equally (once again reminiscent of Professor X and Magneto). There’s more meaning to what would be one of the most epic duels and climaxes at the end of the series. It also adds more weight and understanding to Grindelwald’s final moments in the book if he wasn’t just using Dumbledore or narcissistically attaching himself to his genius.

Yes, that’s actually what he looks like. I’m sorry I had to scar you.

Instead of any of that, this is what we’re getting as our one piece of “representation”. If that’s all Grindelwald felt for Dumbledore, if what we see with him and Credence is essentially what went on in Godric’s Hollow all those years ago, that final battle that the series is presumably amping up to loses its dimensionality and power. Rather than two men who had deeper feelings for one another, feelings that ended in a rupture and an event that both of them seem to regret and want to forget. Rather than a confrontation with each other and a truth they pushed out of their minds for so long coming head to head, we’re getting a good guy and a bad guy.

Instead of seeing them come to wizarding blows after denying something within them to be able to continue on their paths. Instead of making that connection something deeper, we’re most likely getting a grand but flat, action-packed battle at the end of the series reminiscent of what they did with the final battle in the final Harry Potter film. We’re getting a manipulative and abusive force of evil and his victim. Now, that is a valid story to tell, but one far less interesting that what we could have gotten. Not to mention the fact that, once again, the gay ‘relationship’ was only subtext, which doesn’t give much, if any, hope for the future.

Also….why Johnny Depp?! I might have let out a sad cry when Colin Farrell and his ridiculously good performance as Grindelwald-as-Graves (seriously he was one of the two standouts) faded right before our eyes and turned into the bland and horrific bleach blond Grindelwald that Johnny Depp will be playing in the rest of the films. Why are they even casting him in things anymore? And why, when you have Colin Farrell at your disposal, do you waste a performance like that for what this ultimately was?

I could go into the fact that there are abuse allegations against Depp from Amber Heard that include a great deal of biphobia. Not a great choice of actor for someone who is playing the second half of what is the only canonically gay coded relationship in the series. But I won’t.

At the end of the day, like Rowling’s original material, there is a strength at the core. There’s undeniable thematic value. However, when translated and adapted, it has lost any and all of its nuance. For now, I think I’ll have to accept that as I watch these films come out for the next eight years. I’ll have to bury the dream of mine to see a properly done Grindelwald and Dumbledore series in the ground, along with the little bit of nuance Grindelwald’s book counterpart had.


Images Courtesy of Warner Brothers. 
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  • SlayerNina Friki

    Since it’s the first movie, I will give him a chance. Maybe flashbacks and more exploration are coming in the following movies, so I think it’s a bit early to claim he is “ruined”. Also, maybe more LGTB characters could come later too.

    I can’t defend why they choose Depp, though. I could have been excited like 15 years ago, but now? ARGH

  • Jana Wolf

    They also missed a perfectly good real life allegory regarding the current political climate.

    See, Farrell’s Grindelwald-As-Graves looks an awful lot like current day’s “alt right” movement leaders – well dressed, well groomed, well spoken, kind of attractive in a way. Not how you’d expect someone evil to look, that is. Also, his scenes with Credence show off that not only dies he have a point – he is charismatic enough to bring it across benevolently, making the fact that people would actually follow this dude and listen to what he has to say a lot more believable.

    And then, poof! Anti-charismatic unhinged monster person is the REAL Grindelwald! Like, seriously, not only is casting Depp nowadays bad politics, this is how you use him? It’s not like Depp CAN’T be the nice looking charismatic manipulator person. In fact, he does charming quite well on occasion. But, nope! Nuance out the window! EVIL PEOPLE ALWAYS LOOK EVIL, KIDS! So there’s no way all those dapper, well groomed and well dressed people could be actual Nazis… Right?

    (Not to mention the fact that this means Dumbledore has horrible taste in men. You’d think someone whose primary impact on the franchise previously has been his role as a love interest would get to have at least a modicum of desirable attributes, be it physically or in his personality, but nope. Death to all nuance.)

    • Jess

      Yes, totally agree with all of this! Rowling always talks about drawing parallels with the current political situation and even passed ones, but when you start getting into black and white good vs evil territory, those parallels have less of an impact and you deprive yourself from allowing genuine exploration and critique.

      Farrell was so great in and was doing exactly what you are saying, which in the end if they hadn’t did the 180 and made him into straight monster Depp-Grindelwald, would have made him a million times more terrifying than what we end up with. What’s so scary about the “alt right” movement right now and its rising popularity is the fact that it is gaining popularity in the first place and half of the faces of it are those charismatic public figures that are easily able to win over the part of the country that already felt “left out” with some talking and a smile. It’s terrifying when people are promoting horrible, bigoted, and dangerous agendas but are so good at conveying them and know exactly how to key in to an audience that is either feeling disenfranchised or wanting of change. But that’s exactly how these types of things happen and is always going to be scarier and have more of an impact in depiction versus the ultimate evil because when something is literally a monster and has not one shred of humanity or dimensionality in them, it’s a lot easier to dismiss them and any sort of fervor or movement they are trying to build.

      It’s a shame cause they had such an opportunity here to really relate something more than what we’ve already seen, not just in the fantasy genre but in the potter films. If they basically just make Grindelwald into another Voldemort and exploit Dumbledore’s sexuality along the way to give it “emotional impact” it would be such missed chance to do something bigger and exciting with the new franchise.

      (Also yeah, what the hell would Dumbledore see in Depp’s Grindelwald I do not know haha)

      • Barbara Kateřina

        Like I said in my review of the film, the Nazi (sorry, “alt-right”) connection is one reason why I am glad they didn’t make him more sympathetic. In the current climate, sympathetic Nazis are the last thing we need…
        But I do mourn the loss of nuance.

        • Jess

          Agreed in that I totally wouldn’t go with sympathy, but always nuance! To make them black and white is to undermine the true horror and power of those terrifying and dangerous ideals. It also makes people less inclined to recognize that bigotry, hatred, and danger around us and in our current world climate, because as Jana mentioned, the people pushing that agenda are not all presenting themselves at face value as the culmination of evil all of the time and so we must learn to see it through the nuance. It also brings it into reality rather than fantasy realm. But totally agree, sympathy should never be tied to Nazis but nuance helps recognize them and the image they are pushing.

  • frogcrunch

    I enjoyed the film while having a lot of the same issues with it as you did, but am seriously considering giving the rest of these movies a pass because that’s how much I can’t stand Johnny Depp (let alone Evil Albino Trope Johnny Depp.)

    That said, I agree with what you say about the relationship between Grindelwald and Dumbledore but I’m not sure whether your interpretation of Grindelwald re: the Obscurial is overly charitable. My understanding was that they painted him as even more black-and-white evil, even as Graves. He talks a good game about MACUSA and he does have a point but to me it always looked like he didn’t really believe in that and only ever wanted to use Credence because he thought he could find a way to harness his obscurus somehow (and unleash it in a controlled fashion for teh evulz), with no regard to the possibility of saving him.

    • Jess

      Yeah agreed. I didn’t mean for it to come across as sounding to charitable for how they were writing Graves either, but rather any and all nuance that was coming from Colin Farrell’s performance. But yeah at the end of the day, all of that was hindered by the writing where something where there was nuance (I mean he can have an underlying agenda; that’s how people work) and some sort of connection or impact on Grindelwald-as-Graves would have been more powerful; especially for the ending reveal. It never felt like a twist for me, rather just a disappointment (I was hoping it wouldn’t happen), when he turned into Depp’s Grindelwald because of what you’re describing. All of the nuance in Farrell’s performance was constantly hindered and overthrown by those moments when he’s just written as Evil™ like when he dismisses Credence etc

  • Hekateras

    My impressions weren’t so positive. I was surprised by how much I hated the movie given I only watched it with like 40% of my attention span while my dad was watching it properly. And considering I’m not a major Potterhead. The issue is also that I have a higher education in biology and take a serious interest in zoology – you know, the thing the movie is at least partially supposedly about. The movie failed very intensely for me in that respect, when it could have at least been a redeeming aspect. And lo, an incomplete list of things that cheesed me off (besides or in addition to what you mentioned):

    – You mentioned how Newt has no stake in the whole Grindelwald thing and no awareness of it as he arrives in NYC, and yeah, this. Throughout basically the whole movie, he and the other main protags are only stumbling around aimlessly trying to chase his errant beasties (more on this later). None of them have any agency or really influence the plot significantly, at least on purpose!
    – I actually like Eddie’s casting and the way his lines are written is occasionally good if only he actually gave them any life. Instead, he just sort of impassively mumbles everything.
    – After that intense opening with setting the stage for this political
    conflict, having the A story be largely unconnected to it all was
    immensely disappointing.
    – There are strict laws regarding the import of magical creatures, so much that Newt is sentenced to execution at the blink of an eye when found responsible for the death of someone because of his creatures. However, there’s magical equivalent of the customs control he goes through? Someone who perhaps could have checked for and noticed his “hidden compartment”? (And through their meddling, maybe provided a more believable way for some of the creatures to escape than the stupid notion that Newt, this brilliant and experienced zoologist, can’t install better locks on his magical suitcase.)
    – Everything about Newt as a magizoologist and the magizoology itself. The creatures were a disappointing CGI fest, way too colourful and unrealistic after the much subtler and spookier design of the Hippogriffs, the Thestrals, the dragons. Just like a lion trainer would know better than insist lions “aren’t dangerous” (because that attitude gets people HURT by lions and ultimately the lions pay the price), neither should Newt be yelling that “nothing in [that suitcase] is dangerous”. Everything between him being able to casually pet and stroke and be pals with and even converse with 99% of his collection to the utterly laughable way he put on some baffling dance to impress the magical rhinoceros. The “animals have cheatcodes” approach to worldbuilding might be at home in How To Train Your Dragon, but I thought this was aimed at an older audience. And I loved the weird platypus-like creature but everything about the scenes with it was screaming so hard ‘This is comedic and we expect you to love it and therefore shall put no further thoughtfulness or subtlety into it”. But really. Magical creatures are feared and hunted by the magical community (let’s not forget what every wand and every potion ingredient is made of). There should be a lot of distrust. I can get some species being more chill towards Newt, but nearly all of them? God.
    – The way that Newt and his creatures got recognition in the eyes of the MACUSA is such a hard reach that it’s painful. He just happens to have a creature he can use to disarm Grindelwald, well, fine. (Notice that in real life, animals are easily spooked and, even if they’re well-trained, can not always be relied on to do something in utterly new circumstances.) Ok. A little convenient but okay. But then he lets a MASSIVE, like COW-EATING SIZE massive bird out of the bag (and the MACUSA just LET HIM??) that just so HAPPENS to be able to rain Obliviate on the town? AHahhahahhaha. Now, see, I actually LIKE the idea of a wild, huge and presumably increasingly endangered bird being able to make anyone who saw it forget that they saw it. But it makes zero sense for the spell to ONLY conveniently target Muggles* when a) wizards are a much bigger threat to it, b) every time we’ve seen the spell used before, you require INTENT to make it work the way you want to (the MInistry of Magic frequently uses it on Muggles to make them forget they saw specific occurrences, but e.g. Hermione uses it on her parents to make them specifically forget HER). Are we supposed to believe the bird is sooo intelligent and benevolent that it understood exactly what was needed in that situation and DEIGNED to help them out, rather than doing what large, wild animals are wont to do in such situations and just go “fuck it, I’m finally out of the suitcase, I’m OUTTA HERE, GOODBYE SUCKERS”. Newt’s victory at getting the MACUSA to see the worth of magical creatures seems kind of hollow and tepid when these creatures are ridiculously intelligent, helpful and eager to cooperate for the benefit of the same people who (with the exception of like one person) have caused them nothing but harm. Him getting the MACUSA to respect the worth and value of a wild animal even though it’s NOT trainable, and it IS potentially dangerous, would have felt much more relevant and real. Not even realistic, just real.
    – Really though. The third HP book and movie did a much better job of exploring the issue of magical creatures that are dangerous but still have the right to live, with Buckbeak. While his sentencing was a result of the Malfoys unjustly pulling strings, his plight isn’t different to what real animals can go through if they, individually or as a group, are deemed “too dangerous” or unpredictable and there’s no option to release them into the wild or something. Plenty of dogs can face similar fates if they end up biting someone, or just because they belong to a certain breed. Just look at the way pitbulls are treated! At the same time, the right training or handling can minimise (but not completely eliminate, as with real animals, and as with Buckbeak) the chance of injury. So even if we’re not meant to sympathise with the Malfoys in that subplot, the question of “Should we take the risk of handling an animal wrong and someone getting hurt?” is a fair and serious one. But yeah. Real life falconers put up with the fact that their birds’ talons sometimes break right through those gloves and break skin, or that the beak of an upset bird of preycan mess up someone’s hand or face if something goes wrong. They still do their best to help these birds, foster understanding about them, and make their lives easier. THAT is what real conservation looks like. Not “look how CUTE and APPROACHABLE these fictional animals are if you just gave them a chance!”
    – *I totally forgot but this deserves a separate point of its own. Right. Not “Muggle.” “No-Maj.” “No-Maj” has got to be the most horrific, cringeworthy, artificial-sounding “slang” word or term I have ever seen. As an abbreviation for “No Magic”, it’s utterly stupid and runs counter to everything about the way abbreviations and slang words actually evolve. Plus it sounds neither English nor specifically American English. I cringe even when I have to type it.
    – The tone of the movie was just weird. It starts off serious with the intro and the newspapers. Then it’s 80% wacky zaniness with Newt cartoonishly chasing his errant animals through NYC and trying to stop his escape artist platypus from laying waste to Wall Street, and Tina trying to bring him to justice to regain favour. And the Muggle guy who is mainly just there to fulfill the even more ordinary comic relief, and, inexplicably, develop a rapid and mutual romantic attraction with the gorgeous Queenie. (I was willing to give MINOR points for the avoidance of a Newt/Tina arc, until I learned from the lore that she’s his future wife. Barf.) They remain largely clueless for most of the movie to the whole plot with Grindelwald until suddenly they’re in the middle of it. And then Grindelwald is arrested and Newt leaves town again. For a character origin story, they failed to show us why we should actually care about Newt. For a magizoology story, they failed at actually showing us Newt interacting meaningfully with the creatures or doing any of the fascinating things he’s alluded to having done in the past, like travelled various continents and rescued animals and won their trust, or get involved in it all in the first place. For a political power struggle story, they failed to give it enough subtlety or make the main characters more than NPCs in it.

    Directors have grown wayyyy too reliant on having the rest of the franchise to flesh out a story. It’s given them an excuse to be lazy with the “origin story” installment of it, when, with less money-saturated franchises, a tanking on the first installment tends to mean no more movies. It’s ridiculous.