I’ve enjoyed the Harry Potter books for most of my life, it did take me a while to read them as I wasn’t initially as interested in them as my sisters were. But I enjoy reading them, and can enjoy the films for the most part (even if they do have problems) Rowling’s magical universe has been something that myself and most of my family love for the creativity, depth and heartbreak that it gave us.
So I wasn’t sure what to think when all of a sudden, a 100 page textbook from Rowling’s universe was becoming a full film. Would this be a part of a new series or just a one off? (The answer seems to be both by the way) And of course the other question, would it be any good?
I’ve thought about it, and I feel that I’ll be pressured by people to sing its praises and – as politicians like to say – ‘condemn it in the strongest possible terms. I just have to be honest.
This film has it’s strong moments, the design of the variety of beasts are really cool and having them set in the backdrop of 1920s New York was a good idea done well, I liked most of the characters (Newt and his muggle companion mainly) and I liked exploring a magical world different from the one that we’re used to.
This film is a bit of a mess, trying to have all these plots mingled in to one just really starts to confuse you. It’s trying to be a monster hunt film, an exploration of American Magic and a tie in to a certain character’s back story all in one, where the monster hunt film would have been just fine for me. Why does Grindelwald need to be involved in this? How does underlying tensions between the magical community and muggles (I refuse to call them No-maj’s) fit in to Newt Scamander’s attempts to recapture his pets? Why are they doing any of this again?
While I would enjoy seeing how American magic evolved over the centuries and what it would have been like in the 20th century, I just don’t feel that it works having those allegories to racial prejudice, (between afore-mentioned muggles and the magical community and the existence of house elves and other creatures here) without going more in-depth with it. Instead our focus is meant to be on the monster hunt which sadly makes the world building around it feel obsolete (maybe a separate work on American Magic would work as it’s something I’d be interested in)
And like I said, having Grindelwald mentioned – while a pleasant surprise initially – only serves to distract from the plot and ultimately, what happened to him before and what will happen to him in the end has no effect on this story, he’s sort of just there, almost like they thought “we need an evil character for this, it can’t just be the morally grey wizarding community that doesn’t understand these magical beasts so yeah let’s have someone from a part of a different story and slap in in here)
I want to like this film, trust me I do. It gives me no pleasure to criticise the parts of the film which I felt were holding it back. I don’t hate Fantastic Beasts at all, like I said there were some AMAZING monster designs – like an invisible sloth like creature that can see the immediate future, the bowtruckles, snakes that can grow to fit rooms, dragon like creatures that can shrink into someones pocket, and so many others that make you think that this would have worked as a simple monster hunt film. And the muggle character, while mainly there so the wizards can explain the world to someone, was still fun to watch as he sees this world for the first time.
I feel that this film exists for the wrong reasons. Creating more stories within a beloved universe; that’s great (it’d be hypocritical for someone who loves star wars to say otherwise) but the knowledge that there’ll be more year after year makes me nervous that all this is just to milk the franchise even more, and yeah call hypocrisy if you like, but I don’t mind these sorts of yearly films As Long As They Are Good. Fantastic Beasts – while fun to watch, and having a lot of cool stuff – just doesn’t feel as good as it ought to be.
Bottom line is, I think that you should go and see it if you’re interested, there’s still plenty here to like if you’re a fan of this universe. Just.. it really could have been better.