Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Reviews
What's the movie about? That's a hard question to answer because it feels as though it's about so many things at once. There's an evil religious cult, the main character wants to save and rescue these magical creatures from some sort of persecution we never get to see, and there's a flimsy "mixed race" relationship between a muggle and a wizard. How do these all relate? They barely do.
The film does that whole X-Men thing where it's supposed to be a metaphor for race. Like the muggles vs the wizards. Like why do we, the more superior beings, have to live by the human rules and hide. #NoMoreHiding. To prove that racism and sexism doesn't exist in their world they have a black woman president. I'm so tired of the trope where people of color are in high positions of power to show racial diversity, and that it's a post racist society, but none of the main cast who get the most screen time and lines are people of color, they're all white - Octavia Spencer in Divergent for instance. They kind of stopped doing it in the Hunger Games, and those teen dystopias where all the villains where white women... but I guess they did that because they were evil and didn't want the POC to be evil?
As a side note, I guess Mr. Poe and all the POC guardians in Unfortunate Events are good visual representation (besides all the adults being incompetent), but still they die and it's only to show they live in a post racial reality. But they still address women's issues, so it's not a post feminist world...? ANYWAY, back to Fantastic Beasts. The main character's (Newt Scamander played by Eddie Redmayne whose performance is actually pretty good) goal is to humanize the fantastic beasts he finds (that don't have a language), but what about the house elves?! House elves are prevalent throughout the film, but aren't they magical creatures that need protection? What about the giants, centaurs, and goblins? Aren't they magical beasts?! Heck, aren't wizards technically magical beings. Where do they draw their version of the color line? I guess it's with language... because the animals can't talk, but the elves can so they should be equal with wizards, but aren't because of their color line. But goblins in the film seem to be doing great despite them looking like elves. Is there passing in this society? This would be a real racial metaphor, but instead they opt for other plot lines. There's another color line because in this time period muggles can't marry wizards. And that's the relationship they focus on.
The story telling is basically all through exposition in the film. Save for some scenes where we see people's memories. Film is supposed to be a visual medium, but rarely do we get scenes that allow that. They never show the beasts that are supposedly being persecuted being persecuted. They just say that they are, and we have to take their word for it. It's the whole man is evil story and we're destroying nature. Which is true, but show it! Don't tell us. And I guess the plot line with Redmayne being a beast tamer and the obscurist mesh somehow because an obscurist in a magical creature that is being persecuted, but it's hard to tell because we never discovered the definition of "fantastic beasts."
Also if the film is going to be a mystery about evil religious cults be that! Go into the dark characters' past and their lives. Don't go from happy to sad happy to sad. Harry Potter was dark admittedly, but it knew what it had to be. This was all over the place just trying to set up a new movie and the ending is long winded. JUST END ALREADY! The random politician died randomly just to show that the obscurist was evil because it killed a muggle. And they tried to make a Citizen Kane reference for no reason! We didn't feel anything at all for the character that died.
If it's going to be about a no maj wizard relationship do that. But stop going back and forth. The cult is kept in the shadows for a twist/reveal thing, but that's the most interesting part of the movie. Newt's story line about finding the beasts that are lost in NYC is boring, the CGI is really bad. You can see the green screen hanging in the background. Nothing looks real. I couldn't suspend my disbelief.
Lastly, the main character barely got any back story. In the end nothing really even gets revealed about him. Only through some sloppy exposition we know he got kicked out of Hogwarts, but Dumbledore likes him. And Newt has a mysterious ex partner who was part of the Lestrange family. Ok?
It's all just a messy prequel to lead up to the next five movies. I don't know what they'll be about, but I'm not holding my breath. And we know they won't help the house elves because even 80 years later they're still enslaved! I think what's sad about this new franchise is that it ruins Harry Potter. This sloppy mess being associated with such a great film series actually makes me dislike the new movies more, and romanticize the previous films. I don't know if that was intended, but just bring back Harry Potter to the big screen for a re-release or something if you need money. Overall, I give in a 6.5/10. If you're a diehard Potter fan and just want more of the universe, you'll like it, if you want something as good as the originals, it's not there.
It's a gorgeous movie, and if you're looking for a new, different type of hero, this film delivers.