Review: ‘Fantastic Beasts: Crime of Grindelwald’ doesn’t conjure up enough charm to make up for confounding story

They linger, skitter and roar; excite and intimidate. Their presence can be curious, and at times the absences of others are a relief. They have their own hierarchies, although at times clashes can break out for the worst.

When a film’s moniker bears the words “fantastic beasts,” it’s not an advantage when those above words describe its multitudes of plot threads as accurately as the extraordinary creatures conjured up for J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world.

Much like this universe’s beloved nifflers, powerful dragons or sassy bowtruckles, the various tidbits of story and exposition in the second installment of this “Harry Potter” prologue series are disparate, with their own ambitions and unpredictable tendencies rooted in a hunger for attention. Ultimately, it’s to the film’s detriment, though fans of the series would be hard-pressed to leave the theater not feeling a little enchanted simply on the merits of returning home to this universe. Increasingly, it feels like reuniting with an old, robed friend. Continue reading →

A story

It was March 30th. And March 30th for the past few years hadn’t been just any day, he knew that. March 30th was a date that recently was a rollercoaster of a day, as far as what it meant.

He wasn’t much one for details. He always liked to get to the point. In his mind, March 30th three years ago was…just March 30th. A normal day.

Until he met her. The same her he would come to realize was much more than just a her….and who made March 30th much more than a regular day.

He wasn’t much for details. Yet he couldn’t help but go back and remember the finest, most forgettable aspects of that day.

school day. A new girl. A glance. A conversation. A spark. “She’s like a supernova, something so magnificent and beautiful that you take for granted until you get to experience it in person…” That was how he would describe her to his friends later that day, that week, that year…He had experienced something he thought he never would. And it was magnificent to him. Her.

That was three years ago, his and her sophomore year at Pacific Bay High in San Diego. That was the first time March 30th represented something. Something magnificent.

He wiped a telling tear from his eye, remembering how things had been, wondering how they had gone so wrong.

The next year, March 30th would evolve to become a day of justification. It only took a year for him to realize that she was all he thought she was. She was more, actually. And he was just as much something to behold to her.

It was young love. It was frightening, yet consuming. All-encompassing.

“We must have been inevitable. There’s no other way to describe it,” she had said to him. It had been a year. It was a celebration. Both of them thought it was silly to celebrate a one-year anniversary of them beginning to date. Why not remember the most important day, the day we met? “Plus,” he remembered saying, “anniversaries are a grown-up concept. Something expendable for someone our age.” She agreed. So to them, the day was simply…March 30th. A date that meant nothing and everything at once. They both knew they would be among the last of their generation to grow up. And yet they still used words such as “inevitable” and “expendable”. That’s who they were. They wholly realized what they were and what they had, even though they unknowingly already started growing up. It was inevitable after all.

He returned to reality when he noticed the faint glow of his phone going off, the digital letters of her name materializing across the screen. At one point the sight made him catch his breath. It still did, but for all the wrong reasons.

The text was but an abbreviated, loveless version of what she would have sent one, two years ago. “Good morning, happy anniversary. I hope you have a great one…you can call me tonight if you’d like.”

He didn’t recognize the words, the way they were put together.

He wasn’t able to smile at her words. Not anymore.

The words came rushing back to him, the words, the exchange that had kept them afloat for so long.

Her smiling. Looking at him. Him looking into her, at her very essence, into the part only he could understand. Into the ever glowing, everlasting supernova. He had told her the thought of her would make him smile forever. “How long is forever?” she had asked playfully. He thought for a moment, pondering, trying to craft a response as perfect as she was. “Our forever is eternity. It is not only everlasting, but it keeps getting stronger. Our forever is until the last stars burn out. As long as I’m with you, forever is now.” Every time she would ask him how long their forever was, he kept emphasis on “our” and “I’m” and “you”. He was convinced that three words never worked more perfectly together. He was right. For a time.

He responded to her text, with the words he was obligated to say, the words she would expect. It was loveless. It made him wonder. And he thought back to the present pendant.

March 30th last year was a day of foreboding, when the dominating weight of the future hung over them and what they were, and inevitability was knocking at the door.

He thought that maybe if they let it in at that time, things would be different. It was their senior year. He would be getting ready to go to USC, while she was accepted halfway across the country to Boston College in her hometown. But they refused to think about that now.

A beach. A year ago. A lifetime ago. They both knew this might be their last March 30th together in person, but they didn’t have to acknowledge the fact that being apart would only make them stronger in spirit. They knew it would be so. As the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, so would they remain strong. They thought they were in the driver’s seat of this great wonderful mystery called Life. But just in case the weight would fall on top of them while they were apart…he got her an item. A pendant. A cheap, mundane necklace of a square piece of plastic painted like a present. Red wrapping paper and a yellow bow. He knew the simplicity wouldn’t matter. It was the message he meant to send. “You’ve been a gift in my life, for the past two years. You’ve been a gift every day. Every moment with you is endearing.” It was cheesy. It was simpleton. And she understood exactly what he meant. She would look at it when she needed, and he would know when she did, and she would remember, and whatever struggles they might or might not endure would fade.

That was a year ago. “What’s happened,” he wondered aloud, to no one in particular. Where has the light of her supernova gone?

Every second of the past year, every moment she was gone, the weight was hanging over them so low that it blocked whatever light they had.

The first few months had been okay. They had written letters, or novels in the form of letters. They had phone calls that lasted throughout the night. They didn’t mind. They were strong.

But inevitability was stronger.

He didn’t know when he first realized the letters became few and far in between. He couldn’t remember when they had their first argument. He didn’t want to know. It hurt to remember.

He could not understand.

And the letters stopped. And the nightly calls became weekly texts. He spent nights staring at the sky, searching intently, as if their forever was lost among the stars. How would he get it back?

The fights became regular. The memories started to fade. He became afraid of her supernova. There was a certain intimacy in their arguments that always made him uncomfortable, as if they gave her the advantage.

After a time, whatever lone piece of thread holding the weight above them broke. And the thing he feared most came true. He realized the truth.

Neither of them was right. There had never been any growing up for them to do. That had happened a long time ago, before their first March 30th. There were no answers, because what they had been never existed. It was only an illusion of them thinking they had the great mystery of Life solved. Or did they ever think it even needed solving?

It didn’t matter anymore. They hadn’t talked for weeks. They hadn’t argued for weeks. Their forever was limbo, and it was halted by the inevitable, inevitability they had never known and never realized until it was too late.

He thinks she realized it too, at precisely the same time. And that was all the confirmation he needed. He cursed himself, wondered what he was thinking. They had practically spent every moment of two and a half years together; did he really think being on opposite sides of the country would be just the same?

Again he found himself wondering what might have been, if they had welcomed in that dark inevitability earlier.

He didn’t ponder too long. It wasn’t worth it. Not anymore.

Over the coming weeks he heard whisperings from mutual friends of mutual friends. “She’s seeing someone else,” his friends said, “she’s given up.” He didn’t bother to correct them.

A few weeks later she wrote her final letter, or the last one that he got. It said “this boy means nothing to me but he’s here and you are not.” But that wasn’t what provided their closure.

Enclose with the letter was the item they always fell back on – that was supposed to remind her and relieve him. Suddenly, the piece of plastic made to look like a present wasn’t their failsafe anymore. It wasn’t anything. It signaled the end, nothing more.
From that point on, as seamlessly as the seasons change, March 30th began to not seem so special. And their forever became an empty promise.