So my expectations for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them were pretty low. I mean I really wanted it to be good, and it was… I guess. But after this trailer, my hopes were not high. Let’s get one thing out of the way first though. This is an R movie. I don’t care that we have the lightness of Newt and co. hunting through New York for his beasts, this is not PG-13 and you can’t convince me otherwise. I don’t know if it’s supposed to be commentary on Rowling’s part about 1920s America, but the execution method for capital punishment in the wizarding world as depicted in this movie is horrifying to me. Beyond that, a character removes his belt so as to be beaten by his stepmother. I know what you’re saying, “But hey, we didn’t see it on screen.” Yeah? Try answering a kid without lying when they ask you “why is that boy with the exceptionally bad haircut handing his belt to his mommy and then next time we see him he has cuts and scars on his hands? And why is he so afraid of her?” Go ahead, try.
Next, can someone please show David Yates one of these:
Please. Someone, anyone. My biggest problem with the look of the Yates Potter films continues right along here. Not that I had much hope considering his only other theatrical release since the Potter films. Everything is so. Damn. Muted. The whole color palate in the film consists of dark blue, dim blue, greyish blue, and blue-black, except when we’re in Newt’s case. And I don’t think that was a scripted thing from Rowling, I know that this has to just be how David Yates likes his films to look. (Why?)
There is a lot that this movie asks us to overlook as well. I do overlook these things because when it comes down to it, I am a huge Potter nerd and hate myself for not loving this movie but this is all beside the point. If you aren’t a huge Potter fan I don’t think that you can call this a good movie and that’s a problem. The deus ex machina, the one-off scene that Ron Perlman’s goblin character has, the lack of drama because when it comes down to it, we know how where this thing is headed. There are plenty of interesting prequels out there that still have drama despite the audience having knowledge of what’s going to happen. This is not one of them as far as I’m concerned. It could’ve saved itself with the climax, but instead Rowling and the gang decided to throw the old “no this one just has to setup for the next one but man wait until the next one.” Sound familiar?
It’s bad enough that the story and the look of the film aren’t up to snuff, but at least the CGI could’ve been better. When CGI dominated the screen, all is well. When Newt or someone else was holding a creature or interacting with something computer generated, just look away. Again, based on Yates’ only other non-Potter movie since he directed his first one I should’ve expected it, but I still found myself disappointed.
Now I come to the double-edged sword portion of this review, and that is the acting. For the most part, pretty decent. But, Dan Fogler and Colin Farrell were so much more interesting than anyone else that anytime either of them weren’t on screen I wanted to get back to them ASAP.
This next part is very spoiler-y so skip to the next paragraph if you want to avoid it: because these two characters were so much more interesting than Newt, it made it that much more frustrating that, before the credits rolled, both characters were effectively removed from the rest of the series. Who had that bright idea?
Oh, and can we talk for a second about Eddie Redmayne? Oscar award winner, I know. And I think he deserved that award that year. But I’m still waiting for Eddie Redmayne to prove to me that he can play more than 2 characters. He’s either a) Eddie Redmayne or b) Stephen Hawking. There’s no in-between, he’s just either varying degrees of “I don’t make direct eye contact and I don’t enunciate” or there’s the one time he played Stephen Hawking. It’s sort of like George Clooney and his head.
I guess I didn’t realize how much negative stuff I had to say about this movie until I started writing this. What it comes down to is this: J.K. Rowling is a novelist, not a screenwriter. I have 100% faith that if this had been written in novel form it would’ve been just as great as her other work. As it is in screenplay format, too much of the necessary information is only hinted at and supposed to be inferred by the audience so it falls flat. Like the one mention of the American wizarding school or Newt’s one scathing remark regarding America’s rules about magic/no-maj (stupidest possible name if you ask me) relationships. If this were a Rowling novel, there would be a whole chapter on each of those topics. As is, there isn’t enough. She has this whole world and whole history of the world in her head and I think she expects us to see a lot more of it than we can with what she gives us.
So I guess I didn’t really like this movie that much. What a bummer. I’ll still see the sequel because, you know, I have to. I sure hope this was just Rowling working out the kinks of screenwriting though.