Surprised Grindelwald is Clairvoyant? That’s Not the Screenwriter’s Fault

Irvin Khaytman, author of Dumbledore: The Life and Lies of Hogwarts’s Renowned Headmaster and who writes at as ‘hpboy13,’ wrote a dyspeptic and dismissive review of Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore. ‘The Real Secret is No One Cares’ begins with something like an assertion that Grindelwald’s ability to grasp the future in this film was inserted in the third film to explain the disconnectiveness of its own plot points:

while Secrets of Dumbledore is a VAST improvement over its predecessor… it still isn’t any good. To those withholding judgment from Crimes of Grindelwald in the hope that the franchise would course-correct enough to redeem that film, I would be very curious if that hope is still alive after this installment. Because while this film is not as bleak and boring as the last one, it still is in no way coherent.

The creators are aware of this and engage in a bit of lampshading to wave it away. Apparently, Grindelwald has the Sight or some magical ability to see the future. The only way to combat that is to have a plan that is so chaotic and makes so little sense that he won’t be able to puzzle out what’s going on. Yeah, sure, and that has nothing to do with heading off criticism that the events of the film are chaotic and make no sense!

If like me you did not know what “lampshading” is, the article to which Khaytman links defines it this way:

Lampshade Hanging (or, more informally, “Lampshading”) is the writers’ trick of dealing with any element of the story that threatens the audience’s Willing Suspension of Disbelief, whether a very implausible plot development, or a particularly blatant use of a trope, by calling attention to it and simply moving on.

The sarcastic conclusion that Grindelwald’s “magical ability to see the future” has been inserted here  to head “off criticism that the events of the film are chaotic and make no sense” takes as its unstated premise that we have not been told that Grindelwald has this ability until Beasts 3. Which is true.

But that isn’t Rowling’s fault. We know that this information was in the shooting script for the first Fantastic Beasts film, that the scene revealing this capability was shot, and that it was cut from that movie before its release. Kelly Loomis discovered this in December 2016 and it was written up here in a post titled Fantastic Beasts’ Seventh Deleted Scene Grindelgraves’ Vision in MACUSA Office.

This seventh deleted scene in Fantastic Beasts was one Kelly found in an interview Colin Farrel, the actor who plays Percival Graves in the movie, did with ‘Inside Reel.’ He says:

[Graves] is probably a lot more tired from the burden of responsibility that he lives with and under than the film was allowed the opportunity to explore.

There was one scene that didn’t make the film that we shot where he was actually having a vision and he was cramped down in the corner of his office with his shirt off, just a vest on, sweating, and seeing something. And there was a vision.

It didn’t make the cut and I get why it did (sic), because it wasn’t about that, it was too distracting I think. But he is somebody who has physically and emotionally taxed himself for the good of wizardkind. He is somebody who has such a personally defined ideology on what he thinks is right and wrong with society. And these people are either great liberators or — and sometimes as well as great liberators — incredibly dangerous.

There are at least Six Other Deleted Scenes but this one was obviously critical to Rowling’s story-telling arc. It wasn’t meant to appear ex machina in the third film. They filmed the scene according to Farrel, so we know it was in the “book” shooting script that was Rowling’s final after responding to at least three series of notes and revisions with Yates, Kloves, and Heyman. Yates knew better — and, while “fitting the woman to the dress” in his final cuts, edited it out.

Rowling is supposed to have told the Hollywood heroes during the making of Order of the Phoenix that cutting Kreacher out of the story was not a good idea. She knew he played an important part in Deathly Hallows, a book published almost concurrently with the movie adaptation of the fifth book. They took her advice. In this case? We’ll probably never know what happened between the Executive Producers on these films, but it’s clear the Davids got the final say — and that their collective wisdom has created a train wreck of a story.

What disappoints me is that Khaytman obviously understands ring structure. He references it explicitly later in his review of Secrets: “it’s clear Jo employed her favored ring structure here since the film contains echoes of the first one that will presumably return in the fifth film (if one gets made): Newt dances for a fantastic beast, a mix-up of identical suitcases is crucial to the plot, and the film ends with Jacob and Queenie being romantic at his bakery.” But he didn’t think, “Hey, maybe someone as skilled in story-telling and ring-writing as Rowling wouldn’t be ‘lampshading’ her own plot-planning failures with an ad hoc cover for a disconnected if not chaotic screenplay; could this be the fault of the Warner Brothers crew and their previous editing of her work?”

As it stands, look for the Demiguise to make a critical re-appearance in Beasts 5 and for us to lament then as I did back in the day that the Beasts 1 chase scene in the Department store featuring that magical creature’s clairvoyance had all of its “vision” elements removed because, as Yates explained, it slowed the story too much… Two of the Six Other Deleted Scenes post, numbers 4 and 5, are from that one moment, a capability and difficulty Rowling obviously meant to give special emphasis as with Grindelwald’s ability to see the future.

Again, that connection between Beasts 1-3-and-5 was part of Rowling’s original screenplay and the shooting script that was actually filmed. That it didn’t make it to the theaters and the story suffered and will suffer again consequently is not the screenwriter’s fault. Critics who suggest it is, especially those familiar with Rowling’s p[referred story scaffolding can do better to criticize her planning as arbitrary or incoherent.

Speak Your Mind