I have seen Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, and if you haven’t read Tori’s review yet, do it! SOME SPOILERS AHEAD! In particular, I have one grievance to share with you, dear readers:
Imagine that was a haiku. A RAGE HAIKU that broke all rules of haikus because I’M SO ANGRY!
But honestly, what the hell.
What I kept thinking while watching Johnny Depp do his best “dude wearing a steampunk outfit from Party City” in Crimes of Grindelwald was “Damn, Farrell would be so much better at this.”
Because at this point in his career, we know that Farrell can bring the creepy. He can bring the menacing and the foreboding and the persuasive. We saw that exact thing in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them! Remember how alluring and intimidating he was in that as Graves, the baddie who turns out to be Depp’s Grindelwald at the end? (Worst reveal ever, by the way.)
Look at that man! Look at that haircut! And how he wears that overcoat! I’m both frightened! And aroused! Much like Ezra Miller’s Credence seemed to be! And I can’t stop using exclamation points!
Yeah, pay attention, Farrell, I’m laying out my thirst for you here.
Really, though. REALLY. That scary/sensual mixture has been Farrell’s niche for a while, aside from doing whatever gloriously weird shit Yorgos Lanthimos asks him to do, and it’s clear throughout his filmography. Let’s look back at a brief selection of roles to demonstrate my point!
MINORITY REPORT: Department of Justice Agent Danny Witwer. Thought he was smarter than he really was, and wasn’t afraid to put the full force of the DOJ behind his (misguided) investigation. Looked damn fine in a suit; totally earned his unceremonious death.
MIAMI VICE: Sonny Crockett. Hot mess, but also a maverick! In a simultaneously underappreciated and inexplicable Michael Mann production.
FRIGHT NIGHT: Jerry. This is the real shit! This is truly where Farrell starts leveraging that smoking hot face with a truly frightening persona. Motherfucker is a bloodthirsty vampire, and I’m still like “So, are you going to bite me, or what? I’VE BEEN WAITING, BUDDY.”
Bonus David Tennant!
And, RIP, Anton Yelchin.
SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS: Marty. Struggling screenwriter whose story of a group of psychopathic killers starts to come true. (This was the good meta movie Martin McDonagh made before the very un-self-aware and very not good Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.)
MISS JULIE: John. I was enraged reading this play by August Strindberg in graduate school, and the movie version directed by Liv Ullmann and starring Jessica Chastain as the titular Miss Julie and Farrell as the valet John who seduces her and then verbally abuses her is just as infuriating because it sticks so close to the text. But the torture that John puts Miss Julie through is well-executed by Farrell, who is at first gorgeous and lovestruck and then almost immediately venomous and toxic. He is fucking awful, and yet you’ll never question why Julie would fall for it.
THE BEGUILED: Cpl. McBurney. Burnt-out mercenary soldier trying to secure a sanctuary from the Civil War in this Sofia Coppola remake. Heavy on the seduction of every woman available, from the young Elle Fanning to the desperate Kirsten Dunst to the knows-better Nicole Kidman, and doesn’t care about disrupting the women’s rhythms. (“Vengeful bitches!”) Lay those poison mushrooms aside and chomp on this, buddy!
WIDOWS: Jack Mulligan. I cannot recommend a movie more strongly, and Joelle loved it too (check out her review from TIFF). As the corrupt wannabe politician Jack Mulligan, Farrell nails every rich guy you’ve ever hated: a white guy benefiting from family nepotism in a community that isn’t his own, hiding behind his inherited wealth and using superficially feel-good speeches to mask his own nefarious intent. The final scene that he shares with Viola Davis? It’s some serious For Your Consideration shit.
All of this is to say, I wish it were Farrell in this Fantastic Beasts sequel. Tori noted in her review that she thinks Depp may be effective as Grindelwald because Depp himself is such an unlikable figure at this point (“You’re supposed to find the character despicable, and you will”). But while we as audience members are supposed to dislike the “for the greater good” message he supports, I still think he needs to be effectively persuasive as the Grindelwald character to realistically sway all these wizards to his side, and Depp doesn’t sell that.
Yes, Depp has played pretty before (Cry-Baby, Edward Scissorhands, Chocolat) and criminal before (Public Enemies, Into the Woods, Black Mass), but he doesn’t have the same believable glint of menace as Farrell; he doesn’t mesh into The Crimes of Grindelwald. He sticks out in every scene; his brand of smarminess is without impact and his style as a leader is unremarkable. Grindelwald is supposed to be the first sign in the Wizarding World that someone like Voldemort could gain popularity and power and could use the “wizards are better than humans” reasoning to create division and inequality. Yet Depp never channels the necessary intensity or terror. He’s a distraction, not an addition.
We’ll never get a good answer for why Warner Brothers, director David Yates, and author and screenwriter J.K. Rowling thought it was fine to keep Depp cast as Grindelwald despite everything that came out about his (abusive) marriage to Amber Heard and his increasingly erratic (violent) behavior on sets. (I suppose, if I’m cynical, is there really any answer that doesn’t primarily revolve around money?) But really seeing him attempt to inhabit Grindelwald — the movie starts with him and ends with him — reinforces that he shouldn’t have been here at all. Grindelwald should have been Colin Farrell’s role, and it’s a misstep that will reverberate throughout how many other Fantastic Beasts movies we get as Rowling inevitably keeps leveraging the Harry Potter story for years to come.
WHY DIDN’T THEY KEEP THIS GUY? [RAGE BLACKOUT]
Image sources (in order of posting): IMDb, Warner Bros. Picture Publicity, IMDb, Fox/Epk.tv, Warner Bros. Picture Publicity