I have to say, I don’t think I have ever gone into a Harry Potter anything – book, movie, con, etc – with less excitement than I did with Fantastic Beasts. The controversies around them and my disappointment in those running the show had left my enthusiasm tepid at best. Thank God that movie proved me wrong.
From the moment Hedwig’s theme hit my ears I found myself thoroughly engrossed. The beauty of the film, the incredibly in depth world, the characters from around the U.S. – everything started to add up. And suddenly I was back where I belonged in the world of wizardy ready to learn.
Eddie Redmayne was an absolute gem. He took on the character of Newt with wit, charm, and a level of complexity that we clearly have not even come close to unpacking yet. His relationship with the creatures was beautiful and acted as the perfect thread that kept the intense plot together. His kind quirkyness was a great addition to a movie that was surprisingly dark. And his ability to connect with Credence in a way no one else could told us just how much to expect from this character. I was touched almost to tears. I could talk forever about why he was a fabulous character and how excited I am for him to get four more movies.
Tina was a fun addition but I am not entirely sold on her yet. She still felt a bit two- dimensional and her character was rarely given the chance to truly shine. She clearly has the capacity, so she needs to be given bigger moments. I hope she gets them in the next movie. It wasn’t even until the last few scenes that I was invested in her as a character. Queenie, on the other hand, got me immediately with her charm and lovability. The relationship between her and Jacob was excellent and I hope we get to see more. It was also fabulous to see a muggle (sorry – I reject No-Maj) treated so equally in the plot. He rose to the occasion.
Speaking of the plot, that would probably be the weakest link. There was a bit too much going on. We would get introduced to a concept and then rushed over to something else and then to something else so that we never got a true sense of anything. I would have loved more time with the Magical Congress and its kick ass madam president. I also would have loved more time to truly understand Newt’s history and why he is doing what he is doing – but maybe that’s to come. And I definitely would have loved to spend more time on the Second Salem group instead of getting a fairly flat explanation of who they are with the only important facet being Credence. It felt too contrived.
And, of course, there’s Johnny Depp. I am over him already and I am not happy that we have him in the film for many, many reasons. But here we are. The concept of Grindlewald is fascinating and I am thrilled that it’s a long-term plot point, but with anyone else.
Side note: does this mean that we’re going to get Michael Gambon back for the takedown of Grindelwald? One can hope.
Overall, I really loved it. It needed a bit more work and I hope they learn from this one for the final four. But I was pleasantly surprised at how easily I fell back into the world even with entirely new characters. It’s always nice to be home, even when it’s a dysfunctional one.
Going into the movie, I was cautiously optimistic at best. Excited for more in the HP universe but do we really need five movies to tell this story? Coming out of the movie, I had a great time but I’m still not sure about all this.
First, the really good stuff. Eddie Redmayne’s Newt Scamander was so endearing. So at ease with magical creatures but not as great at eye contact with humans, magical or otherwise. Talk about relatable. When they took away his case I felt his desperation. When he started up that Erumpent mating dance I didn’t doubt his capability. The beasts felt familiar somehow, even the new-to-us ones, and I wanted them to stay inside the case for another hour of the movie. I loved it.
It was fun to finally see a positive Muggle (still can’t get behind No-Maj) experience with the wizarding world. The comic relief was desperately appreciated to balance how the film got way darker than I expected. I’ll be interested to see how the Jacob/Queenie story continues considering how it was left. I want more of all of this, but I suspect this will be our biggest dose in the series.
Now, the not so great stuff. I wanted more from Tina. Maybe it’s still coming in the next four movies but for now I don’t feel invested in her yet. I was hoping for more about wizarding in America and that was definitely strongly hinted at for the future. Still, disappointing for now after all that build up.
For the first movie of five, there was a little too much going on. Sure the stage has to be set, and maybe this is what the HP films felt like for those that hadn’t read the books (?), but there were a lot of plotlines. Newt recovering the beasts, introducing MACUSA and wizarding in America, introducing a No-Maj to magic, the Second Salem politics, Tina’s probable connection to it likely being more than we know, dealing with Obscurials, the (not-so) surprise reveal of Grindelwald. First films are supposed to leave lots unresolved, but most of if felt stretched a too thin to grasp onto so I only came away caring about two of them. One was Newt and his fantastic beasts, which is ironically the only part that seemed actually resolved despite it being the literal name of the five movie series. The second was the Obscurial business because it seems to point directly to Ariana Dumbledore’s death and Grindelwald and Albus’ relationship. Which leads me to my biggest issue.
I think I feel about it the way I felt about Captain America: Civil War. I wanted to see a Captain America movie about recovering Bucky and I wanted to see a Civil War movie with the Avengers, but I really wished they weren’t the same movie. Give me movies about Newt and his beasts but I don’t know that I want them to also be the movies about Gellert Grindelwald.
It seems fairly likely though that as the series continues it will be more about Grindelwald, MACUSA, and the Dumbledores and less about Newt. Color me impressed if Rowling has a way to keep Newt intrinsic to that story, but I’m not sure I want him to be. Truthfully, I really didn’t enjoy the darker elements at all. I have a very difficult time watching child abuse and I was not expecting it to that extreme of a degree. Given that we have the specific Grindelwald who has been cast, I’m not so excited for more.
Give me more Newt, beasts, Jacob, and Queenie please. I’ll even give Tina more of a chance. But I could do without the rest and I may as the series continues.