Fantastic Beasts Simply…Isn’t

This part of the review is spoiler free. I’ll mark off where I get into spoilers, so read the bottom section at your own risk!

Oh…this movie. This movie isn’t very good, and I wish it was, because I still have that nostalgic part of me that remembers going to the movie theatre for the new Harry Potter film and just knowing it would be a fun time. Okay, maybe not 4 and 6, but overall I’ve enjoyed the series. I even had a little fangirl moment when I heard Hedwig’s Theme again…and then…oof.

Fantastic Beasts was not enjoyable. It was long, it was sloppy, and I can’t help but wonder just how bad the rest of the films in this series will be if right out the gate they did so poorly.

The biggest problem with this film is that the two stories featured aren’t interwoven particularly well, leading to a movie that feels like it needs to end a lot sooner than it needs to. On the one hand, you have Newt Scamander hunting down his escaped creatures–by the way, there’s only like four of them. I sort of assumed there’d be more. On the other, you have the New Salem fanatics trying to expose the wizarding world the general public, all the while abusing the children in its system. I guess the extremely tenuous connection between the two is the theme of being kept down and misunderstood, whether you be human or beast, but this isn’t done very well, and characters that don’t seem to have anything to do with one story are suddenly swept up in the other for no well-written reason. Personally, I would have simply picked one (the New Salem one, in my opinion, but add more creatures to the other one and it could work too), expanded on it, and saved the second story for a different movie.

The movie itself wasn’t completely awful–the characters themselves were fine, and I’d be interested in seeing a better movie with them in it. Tina and Queenie Goldstein were both fun, as was Jacob Kowalski. Colin Farrell as Graves, oddly enough, was a highlight for me. He really stood out any time he was on screen and I would have liked to see more of him in this movie

-_v1_sx1777_cr001777733_al_

Newt, on the other hand, is what happens when The Doctor and a Pokemon trainer have a baby. And that baby is sorted into Hufflepuff. He was just a bit too quirky and goofy to be a likable lead, and I would have preferred a few more serious moments with him.

The world itself was a bit of a disappointment. More could have been done with MACUSA, the American Ministry of Magic, and the president was a hit-or-miss character for me. For all the controversy over Rowling’s appropriation of Indigenous cultures for the sake of her story, this movie featured…almost none of what was put on Pottermore. The Thunderbird (named Frank, because Newt is just so quirky, isn’t he?) makes an appearance and that’s about it. It only further highlights how unnecessary Rowling’s actions were and how much better she could have handled the American Wizarding community’s history.

I’m not going to outright dismiss this new series–I have too much fondness for the Wizarding World to ever do away with it completely. But the next movie will have to do some serious work to win me back. The fact that young Dumbledore will appear is promising, so I guess it’s just a matter of waiting to see what happens next.

 

 

And now…spoiler time!

  • Alleged wife abuser and walking midlife crisis Johnny Depp plays Grindelwald and…ugh. Just ugh. He looks stupid. He sounds stupid. I am disappointed in you, casting department.
  • So did he just stir up trouble in the UK and then impersonate Graves in the US to hide? Was there ever a Graves, or is he just a complete fabrication from head to toe? Did no one notice this man’s lack of history? Connections? Anything?
  • Are we really supposed to believe that Jamie Campell Bower grew up into Johnny Depp? Because someone should have held the B button down on that nonsense.
  • Seriously, Johnny Depp is playing wizard Hitler. I just want to repeat that for anyone who didn’t hear me the first time.
  • GrindelGraves showed more mercy for Credence than MACUSA ever did (once he was confirmed as a wizard, of course–wizard Hitler and all that). I read on TVTropes that this could be because he reminded Grindelwald of Dumbledore’s sister. I like this theory, but I’m not giving the writers that much credit.
  • Are we supposed to be okay with the fact that MACUSA basically murdered a kid? Because I don’t like that the movie let that go.
  • I’m calling bullshit on obscurials. You mean to tell me in a world of Harrys, Snapes, Riddles, and other abused and repressed magical children, the topic of kids morphing into evil smoke monsters never came up at all in the main series? Come on.
  • Was GrindelGraves using the Elder wand at the time? Did Tina duel a guy with the freaking Elder Wand?
  • The reveal of Tina’s connection to Credence was pretty stupid and a very rushed attempt to connect the two plot lines together.
  • I was so hoping there’s be a menorah or something in the background of the Goldsteins’ apartment. Anything to make the Wizarding Community seem bigger than it’s Christianity-only beginnings.
  • Queenie and her mind reading hijinks are love. Can we just have a movie about her? With a niffler sidekick?

 

What did you think of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them? Do you want to see more in this series or are you jumping ship…er…broom? Let us know in the comments!

Possibly the entertainment editor and co-founder of Paper Droids. Test results seem to vary. Approach with caution and gummy bears.

  • NeptunesNachos

    “Will we die, just a little” had me clutching my sides, rolling down the aisle with tears streaming down my face because he thought he was on the set of Gangs of goddamn New York

  • I loved Fantastic Beasts. By contrast, I never enjoyed the HP movies that much – I would say that 1 and 2 were good, 3 was fine and 5 was good, but I hated 4, never saw 6, and I almost straight-up left the cinema during 7b. So I think this film was always going to be a better experience for me than those, and it was a nice change for me to be able to enjoy the material on its own merits instead of constantly comparing it to the books in my head.

    I agree with you on several points, though – Grindelwald’s casting sucks (and the fact that Graves turned out to be Grindelwald at the end was a big disappointment to me – not every baddie has to *be* Grindelwald), and the existence of obscurials really doesn’t make sense with the rest of HP canon (although it does open up some great fanfic possibilities – I am already half-set on writing an obscurial!Harry fanfic which takes place pre-series). But neither of those spoiled the film for me. I thought that the two plotlines worked together and I was pleased that the film wasn’t just about Newt chasing down escaped beasts, because that’s what the trailers led me to believe, and I just wanted more from a film plot than that. And I loved Newt’s character. I thought he was fantastic! (Though there was definitely something of the Eleventh Doctor in him. But I also love Eleven – well, at least series 5 and 6 Eleven – so again, not a bad thing).

    As for some of the unanswered questions… I’ve discussed Grindelwald-as-Graves at length with friends, and we agree that Grindy can’t have been Graves the whole time, it would make no sense for him to have perpetrated such a long con and got to a position as powerful as Director of Magical Security/Head of Magical Law Enforcement without being found out. There must have been an original Graves.

    Purely based on the books, we don’t have a specific timeline on when Grindelwald stole the Elder Wand, and initially I would have said that Grindelwald wouldn’t necessarily have had it by this point, because it makes sense for them to save that as a plot point for a later film. But then, based on the flashback we get in HP7, Grindelwald does look a lot younger, and it’s implied that he went on his reign of terror all with the use of the Elder Wand, so… hmm, I don’t know. In general I was surprised that Grindelwald was already so “at large” by this point in history, because I would have expected him to have been less infamous in the 20s and only start to build up international notoriety in the 30s and 40s. Again, the timeline we get on this in the books is kind of hazy, but it seems more logical to me that way.

    So yeah, I’ll agree that the Grindelwald stuff is a bit shaky, but for me the magical creatures, Queenie/Jacob cuteness and the bulk of the film’s plotline were more than enough for me to really enjoy the ride :3