Not long ago, I decided to sit down and finally watch Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I was ambivalent about watching it because (1) I was never really a hardcore Harry Poter fan (mainly because I just didn’t catch the wave of Potter Pandemonium when it first rippled through America), (2) the previews didn’t get me very excited and, (3) call me a Debbie Downer, but I thought the premise was a bit silly. I mean a foreign wizard irresponsibly loses his magical beasts, adding trouble to an already magically-troubled America? (Great! Let’s give that man a visa!)
Despite these things, I understand that Rowling is a very clever writer, which I both appreciate and admire. That being said, I had to give it a try. So today, I’m sharing some of my thoughts about Fantastic Beasts, though I don’t intend this to be a full-blown review or summarize the plot in any way.
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The Good Stuff
First of all, the visuals are fantastic! This movie was certainly a feast for the eyes. All the magic and the beasts were wonderfully portrayed. I also loved the set and costume designs and overall feel of a 1920s America. That made the dieselpunk in me very happy (and is probably the biggest reason I decided to watch this movie, to be honest).
There is a side plot involving a no-maj (that is a “muggle” for fans or “those without magic” for anyone not familiar with the Potterverse) named Kowalski that really made me care about him as well as some of the characters he was connected with. I found the treatment of his character and story endearing. Especially the ending. There’s also some interesting things happening with the politics of wizards in America, so I’m interested to see how that plays out.
The greatest thing about this movie is that you don’t have to be a fan of Rowling’s previous work to follow what’s going on. I think the lore in the movie is fascinating and it will be interesting to see what direction Rowling takes with some of the major and minor plots.
The Not-So-Good Stuff
To be fair, I don’t think Fantastic Beasts is a bad movie by any means. It does, however, have some points that detracted from my enjoyment of it—both large and small.
The biggest problem I had was the (attempted?) marriage of two large, though not necessarily related, plots: that of the problem of mysterious dark wizardry causing havoc in America and that of Newt’s search for the magical creatures he’s lost possession of. (Bad wizard!)
To be honest, the whole beasts plot felt like an (albeit amusing) distraction to the much larger conundrum of magic in America run by questionable members in leadership as well as the problem of the evil wizard Grindelwald, who is believed to be there in hiding someplace. I was much more interested in Grindelwald’s story and the magical order governing magic in this new setting to see how those bode for characters down the road, personally. It feels like Newt (well, at the very least his creatures) could run away from the series, never to be seen or heard from again, and I wouldn’t bat an eyelash at this. In other words, they don’t seem 100% necessary to—what I feel should be—the real plot question: what is going on with the magic in America, and what are the major characters planning on doing about it (if anything)?
Unfortunate, considering the movie is named after the creatures.
Also, there were times I almost felt like I was watching anime with a lot of awkward pauses in between dialogue or moments of action. The first half of the movie felt incredibly slow because of this, though it did pick up a bit later. I thought some of the main characters were a bit drab, as well, though Colin Farrell’s character as the shady Percival Graves wasn’t one of them.
Other than that, I actually thought the movie was pretty decent.
All In All
Overall, I found Fantastic Beasts very entertaining. I will probably watch the next movie in the series but will wait until it comes out on DVD. If you’re a fan of Rowling’s stories, or are just into dieselpunk, then I’d certainly recommend watching this one.
I’m actually glad I decided to watch this because Rowling is exploring a similar idea in her story that I’m exploring in mine, as well—that is people with fantastical abilities living in secret amongst those who have none. Now, I can compare notes.
What Did You Think of Fantastic Beasts?
Did it rock your world, leaving something to be desired, or perhaps something in between?