You’d imagine J.K. Rowling had earned enough goodwill that people might give her the benefit of the doubt.
Yet even before her Fantastic Beasts sequel hit cinemas, the casting caused controversy. The online response to the hiring of tabloid-stricken Johnny Depp as Grindelwald prompted director David Yates to release a statement via his agents Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs…
“Duh, he’s literally playing Wizarding Hitler, like literally,” shrugged Yates. “Let’s hope nobody takes a pop at Eddie Redmayne and accuses him of drop-kicking a Niffler. Now that’d be a real PR nightmare!” he laughed.
Then a scene in the trailer supposedly broke canon, and the release of the official cast list drew fury as it messed with the timeline established in books/minds.
But J.K writes great mysteries and she doesn’t make it up as she goes along, right?
Well, there are some potential canonical problems here, but it’s only the second film of five. What’s worse is the critical consensus that it’s the worst Potter ever – that it has too many characters and confusing subplots, no clear protagonist, and exists only to set up later chapters.
To be clear, the first Beasts wasn’t that fantabulous – my review was basically, “Wow how hot is Colin Farrell?!” However, I could see it was the start of a story that promised to tap into the richer HP mythology.
‘Crimes’ opens with an impressive action scene, even if the criminal was actually already free, and just wanted his escape to have a certain degree of flair.
Depp’s take on the character is more Black Mass than Captain Jack, but dark magic must take a toll, as Jamie Campbell Bower’s blond, handsome, spindly young wizard is just a mirage in the Mirror of Erised.
Grindelwald’s crimes include cruelty to cute critters (justice for Antonio!), murder, and nearly destroying Paris. He’s also guilty of making hot Dumbledore lovesick and mopey…after they spent a summer together in their teens, to put this in perspective.
The benignly manipulative Dumbledore has twisted Newt’s arm into protecting Credence – who is trying to discover his origins. And what a persuasive way Dumbledore has – “Hey Newt, you’re not popular, funny, or charming, but you do what’s right!”
So did Rowling have this new sibling twist planned, or did she come up with it between script revisions, à la George Lucas with Luke and Leia?
Well, there was a distinct lack of buildup. Audiences didn’t really finish the first movie speculating about a particular character’s parentage.
Of course Dumbledore always knows more than he lets on. “For the Greater Good” and all that – old ways die hard. Personally, I’ve always suspected he broke his dad out of Azkaban.
It’s fantastic Rowling is enriching the mythology of her world. I hope she stays true to her original vision. It’s a pity she didn’t leave her new franchise simmering in the cauldron for a lot longer.