A little piece on the problems in The last Jedi and Fantastic Beasts Crimes of Grindlewald – since they have so many similarities in the things that people and myself found problematic. Although the movies are indeed very different from each other, in terms of creation and execution. Thats not to say that people did not like the movies. they are part of huge franchises, people will come back. But I think its also wrong to just accept anything in the name of nostalgia and special effects and a 2 and a half hour run time with an ensemble cast.
*on a side note, hating a movie, in absolutely no scenario, gives you the right to be mean to someone personally. One of my favorite youtube channels, screen junkies, discussed this in detail too, you can check it out if you like. No matter how bad a movie gets, you can hate someone’s work, its art, it will be judged, everything in this world is judged. I am not one of those persons that appreciates something bad just because someone worked hard on it. Yeah, good job. We all work hard, no big deal. But attacking someone personally is unacceptable. Just makes you a waste of oxygen.
(Spoiler alert..I guess..)
I think film makers in this day and age walk a very fine line between satisfying fans but also not losing control of their movie. People these days, due to mostly the internet, go into a movie with another movie already in their heads. This movie may have been created by the hundreds of trailers they saw before the release or the critics online who see movies in advance and post their thoughts well before a release. I cannot speak for a time before 2007, because up until that point anytime I watched a movie, it was usually on television. I would randomly surf different channels and if I landed on anything with special effects, I would get into it. A lot of times I also found gems because my favorite actor was in it, or really just an actor I recognize. I would often start a movie mid way, find out the name during adverts and then watch it again from the beginning at some later date. This was before we got satellite tv. When tv schedule would only be announced in the newspaper day by day. Basically I went into movies blind. I did not even know the title most of the time. This made me check out all sorts of movies. Horrors, action, period piece, drama. Even movies that were rated badly , because I had no idea what I was watching. Granted I also knew when to switch something off if it was not age appropriate, but back in those days, baywatch only aired after 11 pm. I found a lot of gems that way. But these days, the story is different.
People often post the plots online. There are several forums discussing a movie, the characters and the story. People have clubs, in real life, I am imagining, where they meet up and talk about movies. Critics back in the day used to post in paper. Now there are critics everywhere online. Whether its websites like these or youtube. Movie maker themselves put out all sort of content before the actual release to get people in seats. Every movie these days now has multiple teasers even before the trailers come out. Actors and Crew often promote their movies in different talk shows , and now even on youtube. Pretty much every movie has an interview or a panel at the convention talking about it. Now you might say, well the crew involved would never divulge information. True, but doesn’t all this ever fatigue you? All this content, the crazy marketing, the endless discussions online even before the trailer launches these days. I often wonder if it has ever ruined or enhanced a movie for me while watching it. And with movie with large followings, do I feel obliged to like or dislike something. Is it even possible for me to tune out any input for the movie before I watch it and form my own opinion of it. With movies like Crimes of Grindlewald and Last Jedi, did the divided and extreme reviews deter my enjoyment of the movie? But how do you ignore these? Now I feel if I don’t check a review before watching movie, I am stupid and willingly wasting my money on what could be a terrible time at the cinema. I am obligated to see how the movie did with critics or in other countries to judge if I should take out time and money to go watch it.
But Crimes of Grindlewald and The last Jedi come from a very different place. Sorry if my train of thought up there bored you, but I just wanted to talk about what CoG and TLJ are not. These are not movies that people went into blind. Simple. Under any circumstances. In the last 20 years, if you have ever owned a tv, you would know what harry potter and star wars is, even if you have never watched them or have but could not get interested enough to follow them. Quite possibly some of the biggest franchises in the world, both are movies that act as more or less spin off-s for the original series. I do not want to call them sequels or prequels to be honest. I like to have my favorite series left alone. I had a decent time watching these movies. CoG more than TLJ because I grew up with Harry Potter, and going back into that world meant a lot more to me. I watched star wars as a teen, and like I said I already had an idea of what I was getting into. I had seen the prequels before and so it was not a new world for me, if anything I was expecting to get bored due to it being a very old series. Harry Potter and the Philospher’s stone was just a random cd I found in the kids movie renting section in a store when I was 10. I have history with that movie. It was one of the first movies I ever bought when we bought a VCR for the first time. Harry Potter, The Mummy 2, Anaconda and Spiderman. I absolutely love these movies and I have seen them each maybe a hundred times, or more. Star wars was something I had heard of in several places but never taken an interest in.
When I watched TLJ, it made me mad, sure. Things did not go the way I had expected them after the Force Awakens. When I watched CoG, I was mad again, but it got subdued a bit due to nostalgia. But, watching CoG, I understood a lot of the anger and hate with TLJ. Its a big movie. They both are. You know what, lets do this in parts. First, just the story :
Both CoG and TLJ have characters from previous original series. While one is a prequel, other is a sequel. However, any events that happens in CoG would not fundamentally change the HP series. TLJ however, is the current ongoing story in the universe. There is more at stake. We already know the the FB series ends. Star wars new gen is its own story. Giving movie makers and production house the freedom to take the story in any direction they want. CoG or the FB series as a whole, started out as a story about Newt. He was the central focus. However, the focus has clearly now shifted to Dumbledore in terms of story and nothing that Newt himself does in the movie has any consequence. Granted they sort of shot themselves in the leg picking a character like Newt in the first place. They picked a passive character opposed to the brave inquisitive and often foolhardy Harry Potter. I love Newt, I think he was the fantastic opportunity to create an unconventional character and protagonist to lead the movies. If anything, maybe even open the discussion to having a main character on the autistic spectrum without his social interaction ability ever being called out or having him treated any differently than any other character. However, the films lose their focus on him by first half of first movie itself. But still at the end of the day, FB as a whole already has its ending laid out for us. We know how it ends and we know it will not change or disturb the Harry Potter stories. TLJ however, is the story now. This is how things will be in this universe and this is how things will remain. Han is not coming back, Luke, may or may not be coming back, at least the movie alludes to his death. General Leia, by fate, with the passing of beloved Carrie Fisher will not be making it back except in footage shot for previous movies. When the star wars new generation was announced, people were not just excited for the space battles, we have loads of them now (star trek movie series anyone?), but also the return of these beloved characters. It was everything about star wars that people loved. They did not want excessive space action, star wars at its heart was a story about a young kid with a bigger destiny. And it was his journey to becoming a jedi master that people loved about the earlier movies. The Force Awakens gave us that in some capacity. Of course a reboot would not be liked by everyone, but slowly, Rei had become a favorite across the board. I think Daisy Ridley did a fantastic job as her. Her character was given enough mystery to keep us interested about her. Her similarity to Han in flying the millennium falcon, being a good pilot, an active youth who did not shy from adventure and would go as far as she needed to go to uncover the truth. In that, her journey was similar to Luke. Her home is compromised and she does not mind leaving it behind for greater things. Thats what star wars was about wasn’t it? The greater things. Thats what the Harry Potter series was about, that is, in essence what the FB series is about. That is what the force awakens was about. Its like any other media of the Shounen genre. A young protagonist who unwillingly gets roped in some big war of good vs evil, is defeated at first, but slowly over a period of time, finds a mentor, powers up and we have a big showdown battle that has everyone at the edge of their seats. Luke did not know what he was getting into, but he was always destined to be part of the giant space war between the Empire and the Rebellion by virtue of his birth. Harry Potter was destined to fight Voldemort the day he murdered baby Harry’s parents. I am still not sure who the FB series is about, but Dumbledore will fight Grindlewald eventually and it will be about family too. But then in comes TJL and does away with all of that. Force Awakens spends time establishing that Rei is a Jedi by blood, and may or may not be related to Luke. But Kylo Ren tells her her parents were nobody. Just a couple of drunks who sold her. Now, obviously he is lying? I mean, he is the villain right? Like how Grindlewald is lying about Credence being Aurelius. But there is a very high chance its the truth too. And I think people did not like that. The movies are in contrast here, as one spends decades establishing the mythos of belonging to a big family name with history, and one bases its central plot/prophecy around the fact that it could have been anyone who would have defeated Voldemort. Let me explain – Star wars, prequels and force awakens created a lot of hype around Luke and the whole Skywalker family. They were the central characters throughout. Leia turns out to be his sister, and the big baddie is his father. The prequels were entirely about Anakin. Force Awakens is clearly more or less about Luke’s kid. The whole series is pretty much about how being a Skywalker gives you crazy Force abilities. Even Kylo Ren confirms this. The fact that Rei can match him in Force is only more proof that she has grand lineage. But TLJ says no, and throughout the movie, tries to force the fact that you dont need to belong to a special family to have a grand destiny. In Harry Potter, towards the end of the series we are told that Voldemort sealed his own fate by attacking Harry’s family. It could easily have been Neville too. That it did not matter where people came from. Your name did not give you some big destiny. Hermoine is arguably the best witch in the series and her parents are muggles. That people could be skilled at magic in spite of where they came from or what their past was, because its our choices that differentiate us. Harry could very well have transformed into Voldy the II with his abilities, but his choices took him down a different path. FB CoG goes against that. In essence, suggesting that being a Dumbledore makes you powerful. That being a Dumbledore was the reason that Albus is as strong as he is, and not by virtue of being a skilled wizard. It hurts the story in my opinion. And just the continuity of the message you are trying to put across. And in that the two films were similar when it came to lineage. It just comes across as a cheap plot device to use to create shock in the audience.
But thats the thing, these movies, these giant franchises, are they really the place you should be sending your message? Why can’t we leave our heroes in their own worlds and discuss our own present world problems in the real world. Let star wars be a place where being a Skywalker makes you God-like expert user of the force. Let Harry Potter be a place where you can be someone who comes from nothing and can still defeat the most powerful witch of wizards. But then again, dont people in position of this kind of power and influence have a social obligation to preach a good message, a message of hope and progress for the majorly younger population that would watch these movies. And somewhere in that, the older population that grew up with these, the ones who came for nostalgia, get mad.
Talking about the problems in the movies, besides the plot. They were so boring. Boring. The first hour goes on forever! We spend little time in different portions with different characters. I am not sure why or where they came up with this trend of following multiple main characters throughout the first two thirds of the movie and then desperately trying to tie everything together in the third act. I am guessing, its becuase these are big franchises who have made a ton of money in the past. That means they can afford big name actors and an ensemble cast. Having an ensemble cast means giving each of them significant screen time and plot significance. Thats not possible with having all characters in one place, hence the side quests. I dont know what to say that. I am not going to deny that I dont get excited when I see a whole slew of wonderful actors be a part of one movie, but cant all you do it the way how avengers, or better still how civil war did it. Alright, I know I am being unreasonable. I dont know how movies are made and maybe this is the best possible way of including everyone without hurting anyone. Maybe this is the only way the stories made sense. Maybe we needed a third act with two big action sequences instead of one. And plot lines that are introduced but dont really amount to anything towards the end of the movie or in the series as a whole. But maybe this was the best possible version they could come up with. Movies like these, big franchises are hardly entirely creative. A lot of it could be executive decisions taken so as to ensure at least some minimum earning, even if the movie tanks.
Overall, at their core, I think both FB CoG and TLJ have forgotten what movies they are. Several movies in a franchise can be made by different people, but to have a cohesive narrative, you have to be careful to be honest to the last story where you left your heroes. At the end of the day, people will not remember the series as a special effects spectacle. They will remember them as a whole. But movies like these create a break in the sequence that often turns off the casual fan. Still, these franchises have enough following to go on and keep making more movies. I do hope the filmmakers do take note from the backlash. While I imagine, as creators they might find it annoying when fans tell them how their characters should have behaved, or how the story should have progressed, if a large part of the fandom does so, maybe something is indeed inconsistent with how your story is progressing. Maybe, in that case , its better to leave old stories untouched and just try something new altogether. Like, was it necessary for either series to go back to the old harry potter characters or old star wars characters? They could have done the whole thing entirely different. If anything I think Star Trek is actually managing decently in that department. Or look at Bumblebee.
What did you think about these movies? Do you agree that they were giant messes compared to the quality and scale of the franchises they are part of? Let me know in the comments below.
Constructive criticism is always welcome. Let me know if I made any mistakes.
Until next time.