Events are transpiring at a rapid pace!
Just a warning, about to rant on and on about that new Harry Potter-verse movie. If you love Harry Potter, it’s okay to totally disagree with me! *SPOILERS*
Man, I do not get Harry Potter. Admittedly, I didn’t read the books as they were released, and I may have already been too old or already exposed to a lot of other fantasy authors when Rowling was on the rise. I’ve always found the Harry Potter books and movies frustrating contradictions. The world established in the series is one built on whimsical fantasy, with silly names like “Hogwarts” and “Dumbledore”. It’s full of magic trains and candy, and quirky magical creatures and characters. But the stories most often told in the Harry Potter universe are dark, angsty, and permeated by a theme of death and suffering. Maybe that’s part of the appeal of the franchise for some, but it’s always felt like stories diametrically opposed to the world they’re set in. Aside from Prisoner of Azkaban, I can’t say I really love any of the films, and that one only because of some clever time travel, which actually opens a whole well of plot holes in the entire series, if we’re being honest.
Anyway, the whole reason I bring this up is because I’d kinda hoped that Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them would be a new beginning, one where we could finally tell some whimsical stories that worked in the context of the world. Instead we got a film about child abuse (*spoilers* the child dies). The first 15 or 20 minutes don’t bother to tell us who any of the main characters are, we just watch them bumble around watching each other with little context given. There’s also a lot of slapstick comedy to establish the tone of the film, but once all the protagonists are introduces, we immediately jump to some political family that plays basically no role in the film, and then a hyper religious woman who physically and emotionally abuses her gaggle of adopted children, especially an older boy that she beats with a belt. It’s tonal whiplash and sucks all the fun and energy out of the film. The whole movie is very slow, doling out information at a snail’s pace.
Also, it seems every magic using character can teleport without reservation or restriction. Several times, the main character goes through a difficult or inconvenient scenario that would’ve been possible to completely bypass with a teleport. At the beginning of the film, he goes through customs when entering the U.S., and his magical creature suitcase is almost discovered. Yet he could’ve simply teleported from the ship onto the dock, avoiding customs security altogether. Another time he enters a jewelry store not by teleporting inside, but by shattering the store side window, attracting the police. The main character is played off as competent with magical creatures but otherwise a lousy people person and somewhat absent minded outside of anything pertaining to his interest. Unfortunately, he mostly comes off as an unobservant idiot.
I also have little faith in the American branch of wizarding society, since their police force seems wildly incompetent. They couldn’t even set up a security perimeter around a wizarding world leaders summit! One of the characters, a lady cop who’d been suspended from the force, walks right into this summit meeting and everyone’s just like “what’s she doing here?” Post some guards at the door, guys! You’re here to talk about a terrorist dark wizard threat, for potter’s sake!
The music in the film is trying SO HARD. The soundtrack works overtime to deliver emotional impact, sometimes with musical queues at odds with what’s actually happening on screen, but there’s jut not a lot of chemistry between the characters to get invested in. Probably the best of the cast is a muggle baker who just gets dragged along for ‘reasons’. He’s the only person genuinely having a good time throughout the story, but in the end, he’s basically told to stand in a corner for the film’s entire finale, rendering his character mostly pointless.
The finale itself feels like a huge turning point in the franchise lore that should actually contradict the previous eight films (since this is a prequel, after all). Basically a good chunk of New York is outright demolished by a rampaging magical creature (who happens to be the belt-beaten orphan boy, because ‘magic’). the creature/abused boy is murdered by fifty wizards shooting it to death with wands in a sewer, but the destructive aftermath of the battle is immense. It seems like there’s no way to keep the magical world a secret anymore, but then the wizards just wipe the entire city’s memory by poisoning the water supply and reversing time so that none of the destruction happened. But were there any fatalities in all those destroyed buildings? Can these wizards even reverse DEATH? In the end, the magic on display in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is so over powered and deus ex machina that any story tension is completely destroyed by the ending.
If the film had been about a quirky British wizard breaking all sorts of magic laws in an attempt to find some magical creatures in 1920’s New York, I probably would’ve loved the film. Instead, it’s just a slow, sloppy, plodding story with a lot of plot holes and very little whimsy to speak of…Published on by Alex Kolesar