Coordinate Closeup · Review

Coord closeup: The Crimes of Grindelwald

This is a part of a series on Harry Potter fandom, chronicling my long obsession with the franchise. The story didn’t end with just the Four Houses of Hogwarts, and so with the age of Fantastic Beasts we journey into dark new territory.

Life revolves around change. Everything changes, and our fandoms are no exception. Why, with the advent of Netflix adaptations, live-action remakes, and deeply dissatisfying sequels, I might as well bring change to this blog as well. Today’s post will be part coordinate discussion, and part movie review.

  • pocket watch-print JSK – unknown offbrand
  • black haori – EHSAN Kimono Shoppu
  • underskirt –Ray-Mo
  • blouse – offbrandflower brooch – offbrand
  • necklace – offbrand
  • shoes – Clarks
  • bunny bag – offbrand; I’m sorry Newt, one of your beasts seems to have become part of the coord

Everyone in the new movie has great flapping cloaks and coats. I don’t have one (and with an average temperature of 30°C, it would make no sense) but I do have a couple of dark-colored haori. It probably doesn’t have enough fabric to do that superhero-style swishing in the wind, but as a jacket substitute for the movie theater air-conditioning it was perfectly comfortable.

When I first saw this JSK, I knew it was the one meant for Fantastic Beasts.

The fabric base is a nice practical tartan, but the print at the bottom features a row of hanging watches. Some of the watches have faces, and some have little figures and clusters of cogs and gears.

This really brings home how we’ve gone back in time, to the dark lord before the Dark Lord, the gears that were the foundation on which J.K. Rowling built Harry’s universe. I’ve been a great fan of the meta-discussion and essays on Firestorm over London, which focuses on Harry Potter, Sherlock, and some Marvel. If you’re interested, she has a really nice thought-piece on Wizarding history, A Most Feared Dark Lord.

The pattern on the haori is of fantastic (sorry, couldn’t resist) plants in silver, blue, and mauve thread. Newt handles animals instead of plants, but I’m pretty sure that there are creatures, like the bowtruckles, which look pretty darn plant-like.

Alright, that might be a bit of a stretch. But color-wise, it does go with the JSK.

The bodice of the JSK has two rows of Hogwarts-style buttons. They’re not the exact Hogwarts seal, but considering this isn’t official merchandise (frankly, I have no idea where this came from) having quad-color buttons is kind of amazing. Honestly, these were the major selling point for me.

The enormous rock on the necklace is of course not a real gem, but the color and style is how I’d imagine enchanted artifacts to look: weighty, and a little clumsy and chunky, as microscopes and lasers don’t exist in the magical world.

Makeup is kept simple, with a dark lip and softly winged eyeliner; since I have oriental eyes, I almost never go without liner. There was a scuffle on my newsfeed over Nagini being a human (and Asian) and while I opted not to join in the (rather irate) discussion, personally I am cool with it.

I don’t think of it as Nagini being kept as a pet; she occupied the highest position of trust in Voldemort’s army. Never mind Malfoy, Bellatrix, and Snape; my friend jokingly said that if ol’ Voldy could have crossed species,  Nagini would have been Missus-demort.

Maybe if he had been an Animagus…. no, stop. We’re getting way too meta.


As for my thoughts on the movie?

I think it was a mistake.

Hold on, don’t take my head off. I appreciated the experience, but I think it was a mistake, first and foremost, to sell it as a PG-movie. For the next few days after viewing, I took the time to digest everything I’d seen, weighing it against my experience with the books, the online discussion, and the previous movies.

It was a mistake to sell it as PG, because it alienates its audience. There were some very young children behind me who would pipe up from time to time, ‘Mom, what happened?’ and the bemused parents would fumble for a way to describe the on-screen events. After Grindelwald made his big speech, there was one particularly awkward moment after we’d just been shown a man burning to death, and several horrific scenes of warfare.

What’s happening? The eve of magical genocide, that’s what.

How would you explain this to a very young child? There’s a reason you don’t take kids to see Saving Private Ryan. A few lighthearted scenes with the circus dragon and Eddie Redmayne’s best attempts at ‘socially awkward genius’ aren’t enough to offset the weight of the film.

And on the subject of weight…

This scene was terrifying, and I loved it. If it hadn’t been PG, the producers could have gone all-out. Johnny Depp brought a certain gravity and inevitability to his role, and for a movie literally titled ‘the Crimes of Grindelwald’ he wasn’t given enough to do.

Instead we got several sub-plots involving several side characters who we have little to no reason to care about. Credence (or whatever name he has after the big reveal) is an unknown entity and that is justified, but what about all the others? Most of the new cast have the character growth of rocks- they guide the flow of the river that is the plot, but apart from that we know nothing about them, and as individuals they have no presence at all. You could swap in just about any other featureless rock, and it would have the same effect.

This is upsetting, because I wanted to care. In Harry Potter, you knew what a character would do in almost any situation. You knew, and you cared about them, because they were developed enough for you to think of them as real people. They could be irritating, stubborn, frustrating; but you still wanted them to survive the cause-and-effect of their actions, and grow from their experiences. And frankly almost everyone did, even the Malfoys.

But in Fantastic Beasts, despite the glorious effects on-screen, I didn’t care if the world was about to be destroyed, or if so-and-so character fought valiantly, because or in spite of their personality; really, what personality was there? They existed to progress the story from Point A to Point B, and to remind us that another movie will be released next year, and another, and another. I felt like I’d just sat through some fabulously high-budget filler. It’s supposed to keep you hooked for the next installment, but this movie was so insipid that it feels like something that could have been cut out almost entirely.

In conclusion

I’ve always believed in open discussion, provided it is kept civil and not the shouting and mudslinging of #NaginiGate. I have friends who had a more favorable opinion of the movie, and that’s alright- we’re still friends. We all had different ideas of what to expect, and so everything is YMMV- your mileage may vary.

For what it’s worth, I’m still going to watch the next iteration of Fantastic Beasts. Eager, even. I enjoyed seeing Jude Law’s Dumbledore, and it gives me a little thrill of joy whenever the camera shifts to familiar settings like Hogwarts castle. I’m still going to dress for the occasion, and nag my Potterhead friends to watch it with me, and indulge in gratuitous meta-discussion about details of the fantasy universe.

As a whole, the Crimes of Grindelwald has its magical moments. Just not the sort of magic I was hoping for.

2 thoughts on “Coord closeup: The Crimes of Grindelwald

  1. You’ve hit the nail on the head with your analysis for me. I saw it last Tuesday and left not as excited as I expected, but couldn’t quite put my finger on it until your post.
    I agree that it definitely wasn’t a kids’ film as is, so they may have as well dropped the PG rating. It would’ve opened up some avenues for certain characters. And I do agree how there was so little character development that it was hard to care for any of them. Oddly enough, of them all I felt the most compelled by Grindelwald (as much as I disagree with what he’s done in his personal life, I’m glad to see him finally be an actor again, not stuck in the same Mad Hatter/Jack Sparrow character for ever and ever) and Dumbledore. I may have internally squealed a little at the ‘it’s a bit more than friendship’ strong hints they were dropping (I’ll believe that they were in love and that’s it) and I liked how Jude Law still had those Dumbledorean twinks in his eyes, the winking without winking moments – it carried the character and made him the Dumbledore we know (and the nod to Lupin with the bogus lesson was sweet too). But everything else left me a little bit underwhelmed and it felt like a bridge film – not a lot to offer for now, because it’s just there to get the plot to the next installment. It was ok for me to watch, but I don’t feel compelled to watch it again. And that in itself is a little sad.
    On the other hand, I’m loving how much thought you put into your outfit and the details are incredible. It works super well and it gives me great subtle hints of wizarding school somewhere in Showa Japan thanks to that haori – which could’ve totally been true!

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    1. Jude Law does have those Dumbledorean ‘winking without winking’ moments; that’s the perfect term to describe it! Even during serious moments, there is an element of quiet humor in his delivery, and I enjoyed it very much. And despite Johnny Depp’s personal life, I appreciate his acting (and that of HBC and Sacha Baron Cohen, who seem doomed to repeat the same role over and over)

      But back to Grindelwald and Dumbledore- these two exude so much personality, and yet they’re off-screen for much of the film. I don’t dislike Newt as a character, exactly, but- do something! The only things we know about him are that he adheres to his own moral code and that he’s clueless when it comes to socializing. And that he fancies salamanders’ eyes. Do something! Even during the more grim parts of Deathly Hallows where the old gang was groping blindly for clues, it didn’t feel this disconnected, because the character interactions helped us through the plot.

      It took me awhile to sort out my thoughts into something coherent, because immediately after the film I was neither here nor there. It’s a bridge movie, as you put it. It didn’t provoke immediate anger like HBP’s movie adaptation, but ‘it wasn’t horrible’ isn’t what I was looking for. Sad.

      On a brighter note, there is indeed a canon school of magic in Japan, Mahoutokoro! It’s only vague background info for now, but I imagine they look something like the designs from the Harry Potter games as featured in this game review by French YTer Joueur du Grenier; if you have time, the whole video is worth a watch, I love this guy’s channel.

      Like

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