Fantastic Beasts is the squib of the magical Harry Potter film franchise.
I did not believe it over-hyped, until I was exactly half-way through the film, nursing a headache and placating my fangirl indignation.
I had anticipated I would react this way actually; After all, there’s a reason I call myself a Harry Potter purist.
For me, Harry Potter concluded with Deathly Hallows Part 2. There was a content finality to the final book and film. However, once JK Rowling began approving everything from amusement parks, the play Cursed Child, to the film adaptation of Fantastic Beasts, I knew there would be no stopping the juggernaut.
In one fell swoop, Fantastic Beasts managed to contaminate the sacrosanct elements of the Harry Potter realm with…well Hollywood-ness. They went further as to put together a slap-dash palatable plot audiences could quite easily predict and conclude, as well as unnecessarily extending the fantasy until it rode – to the bank – the now singed reputation of the well-rounded and complete Harry Potter films.
This film was overindulgent: Using IMAX to blow everything in the film up short of dust mites, as a way to recreate the hyperreal Harry Potter magic (which was made enchanting when we first got a taste, due to its simple, pure and enigmatic introductions into Harry’s world, as well as our own.)
They are saying we should judge Fantastic Beasts as a film unto itself, but lets not fool ourselves – this film is nothing without the Harry Potter franchise, which now stands unprecedented as a fantastical culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant contribution to global popular culture.
Fantastic Beasts wanted big names, big creatures, big reactions and a big reward from the big budget and big reputation they were working from. None of the big elements were memorable and rewarding, and THAT is problematic.
Ask anyone who has ever watched the Harry Potter film: irrespective of which character you liked and hated, you can still name names and scenes, characteristics of them, and even some scenes. Anyone whose watched a Harry Potter film can make small but significant links in scripts, plot devises and mis-en-scene, without being led there like a doozy 5-year old audience member. Every time you left a Harry Potter film, you left with something warm and fuzzy in your belly, or even something niggling in your brain, to later meditate on.
Eddie Redmayne was the awkward turtle I never imagined Newt Scamander to be, because I never thought much on who wrote the texts Hogwarts students studied from. His character’s intellect and empathy were a draw, but I do feel the overly stylized awkwardness of the Oscar-winners’ portrayal made the character unreachable – even in his vulnerable moments (Lestrange), he was an inaccessible individual who was plotted across the world in the dastardly magically restricted New World, to spend the whole movie running from the fruition of plans made by the only reasonably intriguing character in Fantastic Beasts, played by Colin Farrell (and he-who-must-not-named because MAJOR spoiler).
The other characters in the film were cute, but filler tools to hold-up Newt’s story. Among the cast was the American equivalent of Kingsley Shacklebolt, the token black cast member Carmen Elizabeth Ejogo, who played the beautiful one-track-minded US Magical president, but whom I’d like to say was done a disservice to her acting by giving her such an empty vessel of a character for all the intellectual authorities in the film to look to, and magically parry with. I could break down each characters characterization but whatever…Google them.
Shout-out to Ezra Miller whose look in the film, and acting, actually yielded another movie character to add to his arsenal which reveals his commendable acting range.
They say think of Fantastic Beasts as its own cinematic creature, but when you throw JK’s initials in bakery designs, Deathly Hallows iconography in unsubtle placement, Unspeakables nefariously insoluble killing methods, scripted references to the school of magic we graduated our childhood imaginations from…well then you’re just asking for us to spell some things out to your pretense.
My review doesn’t stand to discredit the efforts of the cast, studio and crew, but rather serves as a reminder that churning out franchise blockbusters will not be considered lucrative in the long-run, should the quintessential heart of the films not be respected and nurtured diligently.
I’d have liked to see Newt’s actual travels through jungles, Africa, Europe etc. to acquire these creatures, and the actual mishaps of his learning experience. To find Newt to have such a complete knowledge of nearly every creature in the entire film was annoying. P.S: The Obscurus’s name and powers were very on-the-nose.
We wanted to journey and learn with him, not to have the beasts stats read to us as if we’re muggles – we’re really not!
That was why Harry Potter worked so well for the great majority: Professors emphasized that while there were spells and potions to use in certain situations, the realm of magic always had positive surprises and a few nasty tricks up its sleeves for us. Learning through the unknown was exciting!
BTW: The creatures were cute! Like Ron wanted in the books, I want a Niffler too! But the golden Thunderbird, resembling the mythological Griffon, was the most fantastic beast in the entire film.
All in all, I give the film a 4-10 for trying.
I humbly request the inevitable next film be more sinister and twisted in its plot, its characters more nuanced and intense(but he-who-shall-not be named because MAJOR spoilers, will take care of that because he’s an acting chameleon god), and that you 3D the magical force and IMAX the creatures actions alone mayhaps?!
The best piece of magical action in the history of this franchise actually occurred in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix from the moment the Order and the Death Eaters descended into the Ministry for battle. That was actual cinematic mastery of amalgamating action, thriller, fantasy and suspense. #JustSaying