Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the— who am I kidding, I’m not a popular blog. If you’re reading this, you know what Fantastic Beasts is. But still, I want to talk about Harry Potter for a minute. I think it’s a pretty underrated film franchise, in addition to being a slightly overrated book franchise. If you ask me, it took a slight dive after David Yates took over directing duties and didn’t really pick up until the last movie. And now Yates is back to direct five more Harry Potter movies, which brings us to this.
The thing with this film is that, while I liked it overall, it gave me a lot of insight into what I didn’t like about the last few Harry Potter movies. Have you ever realized that nothing memorable came out of any of them? I mean, besides the last one, which had a few moments like the train station purgatory scene or the one where everyone’s Harry. But Deathly Hallows Part 1? Half-Blood Prince? Order of the Phoenix? Can you honestly tell me that anything from these movies really stuck with most people? And for a franchise whose entire novelty was being, well, novel, it’s disheartening to see them fall into so many conventional trappings. Which is exactly what happens in Fantastic Beasts.
This whole movie is meant to be a “woman and/or child looks up in the sky and goes ‘whoooooooa'” sort of fantasy movie, but so few things in it come close to inspiring that sort of whimsy. Eddie Redmayne is sufficiently foppish, but everything in the movie seems to come from somewhere else. Most of Colin Farrell’s scenes feel straight out of Watchmen. Some of the supposedly “fantastic” beasts are actually just platypuses or giant beetles. Oh, amorphous floating black masses that kill people? Never seen that in a Harry Potter movie.
There’s also an entire subplot that seems to make up about a fifth of the movie and is entirely pointless. It revolves around an orphan who’s trying to keep himself from turning into a rage monster. So, all this damage happens, and Newt comes to New York to figure out what’s going on, and also to set his gryphon free in Arizona. From before the movie even starts, we’re led to believe that it’s the work of the mysterious Grindelwald, who we only hear by name and see the back of his head. Except it turns out it isn’t Grindelwald, it’s the orphan, but Grindelwald’s still up to something so they arrest him anyway. So… what was the orphan for? Why build it up like Grindelwald’s doing it and then just have this Addams Family shit going on in the background for two hours only to lead to the kid fucking dying and nothing getting resolved? But oh, the female lead is actually also an orphan, with the same foster parent! Okay, so? Why is that a twist? I was never led to believe something else.
And at the end of the movie, we get a BIG twist! Colin Farrell’s character, who we’re first introduced to in a dissolve from the aforementioned Grindelwald scene, and who has the exact same bizarre Macklemore haircut as Grindelwald, is actually Grindelwald! I don’t feel that that’s a spoiler because it’s literally the first thing you figure out in the entire movie. Seriously, the twists in this movie are just awful.
But once again, overall, I liked it. While a lot of the magical stuff doesn’t feel original, it is very cool. The characters are by and large delightful, and there’s some pretty interesting set pieces throughout. It made me interested to see what the next one will offer, even if I’m not exactly dying to see it. It’s far from perfect, but very enjoyable. I’d give it a B-.