I had read reviews for Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald before I sat down in the theater, so I knew to anticipate a mess. I just tried to remain open-minded.
But after approximately ten minutes of the behemoth 134-minute movie, I was already biting back a smile at its ludicrousness. And the rest of the movie only devolved further. It was such a jumbled collection of half-baked subplots and shallow characters, all stitched together with brand new mythology that appeared when convenient and disappeared just as suddenly, that I couldn't even muster frustration. I was just amused. And confused.
My childhood idol J.K. Rowling — who has, it must be noted, deflated in my eyes anyway after her throwaway treatment of LGBT characters and characters of color — had apparently written a script by pulling random nouns out of a hat and tossing them onto the page and then the screen to see how they would interact.
This method also accounts for the so-called twists in the movie. Crimes of Grindelwald smugly produced several major ones by the end of its runtime, and not one of them was emotionally satisfying. They were surprising, sure. But not in a way that still felt consistent with the previously established narrative, as any good twist should. With the film's patchy character motivations and already-convoluted plot, these were just sharp, inexplicably turns into more nonsense.
This installment is only the beginning of the new would-be franchise. There are three (yes, three) more films to go. And while the one before this, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, was pretty good, this addition managed to ruin that too. All of the character sacrifices made at the end of the last film had been conveniently erased by the start of this one, presumably to make room for the new plot (or semblance of one).
(On the bright side, this means that that one character who really shouldn't have died for the others will be alive and well by the start of the next movie.)
I left the theater and spent the walk home alternately trying to detangle the plot with my companions and laughing about just how tangled it was.
I say all of this as a tremendous Harry Potter fan.
I read and reread the books at least a dozen times over the course of elementary and middle school, chastised anyone who dared watch the movies without first reading the source material, and to this day use my Hogwarts House as a shortcut for explaining my personality. (I'm a Slytherin, so maybe that tendency makes sense.)
In seventh grade, I made wands for myself and a friend using wood dowels and paint and a lot of research into the Potterverse-approved significance of different wand woods and cores and lengths. I bought a quill and ink to emulate the Hogwarts experience, and I once memorized every single spell used in the series.
Most of the stories I told myself in that time period, the precursors to my later attempts at novel-writing, were Potter-based. I read fanfiction. I daydreamed about being a witch at Hogwarts for far longer than it would be socially prudent to admit.
Which is why all of these new developments in my favorite fictional world sting a bit.
There was a time when all of us fans worshipped J.K. Rowling and every new tidbit that she tweeted, posted, or wrote. We waited eagerly for any little reveal about our favorite obscure characters or confirmation of the best fan theories. There were calls for her to write prequel series, sequel series, and anything Potter-related, no matter how brief.
Except now she's tried all of that. There has been a website devoted solely to Harry Potter, a theme park experience, and a whole lot of new fictional facts that don't add up with the old ones. I haven't even brought myself to read Cursed Child, but after watching Crimes of Grindelwald, I will be limiting the canon in my own mind.
Enough is enough, although it pains me to say so. I would much rather make do with what we have than continue down this path of subpar stories marketed on the strength of my childhood nostalgia alone.
I don't want to see the stories that shaped me turn into jokes about authorial meddling and popularity dragged out past its prime. I love them too much for that.
It's time for Harry Potter and its sister franchises to die and stay dead. No Resurrection Stone allowed. For as the original series taught us, what comes back is only a shadowy imitation of the original.