This article contains mild SPOILERS for The Crimes Of Grindelwald -- not the big, dumb, continuity-ruining twist that happens in the last 30 seconds of the movie, though.
You might remember that back when Harry Potter was first accepted to Hogwarts, his list of required reading included Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them by Newt Scamander. This immediately prompted young readers to wonder: Did the author of that dusty old textbook ever battle any superpowered albino murderers?
The answer to that question (which is "yes," for some insane reason) has come in the form of the Fantastic Beasts prequel movie series. The second entry, The Crimes Of Grindelwald, hit theaters this past weekend. The movie has been the subject of some controversy -- not just for the reveal that Voldemort's pet snake actually used to be a nice young woman, but also because Grindelwald is played by goddamn Johnny Depp. Even the film's poster seems embarrassed that Depp is in this movie, showing him only from the back.
Unless you've been living in a cupboard under some stairs, you've probably heard that Depp was accused by his ex-wife Amber Heard of domestic violence, which he has denied. In a statement, Heard claimed: "during the entirety of our relationship, Johnny has been verbally and physically abusive to me." Depp's lawyers alleged that Heard made it all up to get her hands on a lucrative divorce settlement ... which she ended up giving to the ACLU and a children's hospital. So you know, one of those scams where you launder the loot through donations to nonprofits and sick kids.
Depp appeared briefly at the end of the first Fantastic Beasts movie, which caused some dismay at the time. But now, in 2018, in the midst of the Me Too era, even more attention is being paid to the casting of an alleged domestic abuser in a $200 million children's movie. Perhaps the most outrage-y moment came during Comic-Con, when Heard, who was promoting Aquaman, had to appear on the same Warner Bros. panel as Depp -- who came out in character as Grindelwald, thus cementing his status as the Daniel Day-Lewis of goofy warlock villains.
Rowling defended the decision not to recast Grindelwald, stating: "Based on our understanding of the circumstances, the filmmakers and I are not only comfortable sticking with our original casting, but genuinely happy to have Johnny playing a major character in the movies." And Depp recently added, "J.K. has seen the evidence and therefore knows I was falsely accused" -- seemingly suggesting that he showed Rowling some sort of exonerating evidence, presumably on a piece of an enchanted parchment that no one else is allowed to see.
Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe, pointed out that this was kind of hypocritical. Back when they made Harry Potter movies that actually featured Harry Potter, the producers did fire someone for their offscreen actions. The bully Crabbe was written out of the final film after his actor was caught growing pot plants in his mom's house. As Radcliffe bluntly put it, "What Johnny has been accused of is much greater than that." Several Potterheads also took issue with Rowling's support of an alleged abuser when her books were literally about a kid escaping an abusive home. Hell, even Disney has reportedly dropped Depp from a planned Pirates Of The Caribbean reboot, and their theme parks are practically infested with animatronic Jack Sparrows.
To top it all off, Rowling already had an in-universe way to drop Depp like a box of unwanted scarves. Remember how Season 5 of House Of Cards ended? Robin Wright's Claire, now in the Oval Office, ghosts Kevin Spacey's Frank, then turns to the camera and says "My turn."
One might think that that Netflix cobbled that ending together with a CGI Spacey after he was accused of sexual assault. But this happened before he was fired from the show, perfectly teeing up the Spacey-less season. The producers fell ass-backwards into a solution to a problem they didn't have yet.
Similarly, Rowling had the perfect out, but chose not to take it. Depp was barely in the first Fantastic Beasts. His character spent 99 percent of the movie disguised as Percival Graves, played by Not Accused of Domestic Violence Actor Colin Farrell. It's only in the finale that Newt uses a spell to reveal Grindelwald in all his "Sad divorced dad at an Arcade Fire concert" glory.
So why not have Grindelwald take on Graves' form again? Farrell's performance was one of the brighter spots in that enchanted turd of a movie. The new film opens with Grindelwald escaping from wizard jail by changing his face again. Why would he even want to change back? If you're on the run from the magic cops, wouldn't adopting someone else's face be the best possible strategy?
Now, you might be thinking that to accomplish this, Grindelwald would have to keep downing vials of Polyjuice Potion (if you've read this far, let's assume you are also a nerd and we don't have to explain what that is), which requires A) a sample of someone's body and B) not minding the taste of hair juice. But guess what? He's not even using a potion. According to Rowling, "Grindelwald's Transfiguration surpasses that of most wizards." Meaning he's just so damn magic that he can use a spell to look like whoever he wants at any time. Meaning he could constantly be evading capture by modifying his appearance. At the very least, he could have done something about that creepy-ass mustache.
Even if you don't think that Depp should be recast over these allegations, he's kind of wrong for the part anyway. Like the best villains, Grindelwald's viewpoint is meant to be a sympathetic one. He claims he wants to rule the Muggles because he has seen visions of the horrors of World War II. As others have pointed out, him succeeded in this would have likely prevented the Holocaust. The film tries to convey Grindelwald as going about gaining supporters to his cause by being charming and empathetic. In fact, Grindelwald has to be so charismatic that we need to buy one of the main characters actually deciding to join him at the end of the movie.
But as we know, Depp traded all his charisma for a whiskey barrel full of hats and costume jewelry sometime in 2006. He can't help but play the part like an unhinged weirdo, because that and cigarette butts are the entirety of his being now. And for those who can't shake Depp's real-life baggage, this problem is only magnified. Maybe it's not too late. They're making five of these goddamn movies. Forget James Bond, have Grindelwald shapeshift into Idris Elba and see if it doesn't save the entire Potterverse.
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