2016 will forever go down as the year of the disappointing blockbuster. Out of the dozens of blockbusters I’ve seen only 5 I would classify as great films. The discouraging thing is so many films have had such potential. Indeed, they have such potential that I buy into the hype and go into the film expecting something great only to be disappointed when leaving.
Well, my friends, you can add another film to this list. The newest spin-off in the Harry Potter world, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, isn’t awful by any means but it is very disappointing.
I should state outright I am not a die-hard Harry Potter fan. I am more of a casual fan but I have recently done my rewatch of the Harry Potter movies over on my channel and I was reminded that they are a bit of a mixed bag. None of them are awful either but I’d say 4 are successful and 4 really are not. You can listen to our podcasts here.
Fantastic Beasts is particularly disappointing because this was the chance to see JK Rowling write a screenplay without any fear of loyalty to a book or other source material. She could just unleash her creativity on the screen, but it ends up being a mostly frustrating experience.
But there are some good things about the film that give it a mild recommendation.
There are two plotlines in Fantastic Beasts. The first involves Newt Schamander (Eddie Redmayne) getting his suitcase switched with a non-magician (muggle in Britain no-maj in US) man named Jacob. Unfortunately Jacob unleashes some of Newt’s magical creatures onto the city of New York and they have to hunt them down.
This search is a lot of fun and it was surprisingly slapsticky. There has always been some humor in the Harry Potter movies but this was long segments of people falling into mud or getting into other shenanigans with the magical creatures. My friend laughed a lot more than I did but it was pleasant entertainment.
I also really liked Jacob and a woman named Queenie played by Alison Sudol. I almost wish the movie had been about the two of them instead of Newt. She lit up the screen whenever she was on it and her ability to read minds was charming and funny.
The music by James Newton Howard was fantastic, capturing the 1920’s speak-easy feel as well as the exquisite costumes by always reliable Colleen Atwood. The beasts were also adorable especially a creature called a niffler. They will probably sell a lot of toys of him at Universal Studios.
I was also never really bored so it’s a harmless film about magic that I suppose hard core fans will love. I wasn’t offended or bored out of mind by exposition like in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.
When I first got out of the theater and did an initial thoughts youtube review where I gave it a B- but now that I’ve thought it over I am going lower because there really are a lot of problems.
The first big issue is with the tone. Like I said, they try way too hard to be funny and then combine that humor with some really dark story-lines I won’t spoil. The sort of B story-line involving Ezra Miller as an orphan named Credence Barebone and his head ‘mother’ played by Samantha Morton is unsettling to say the least. It didn’t gel together very well.
There also wasn’t a clear focus like you had in the Harry Potter movies, which even when unsuccessful were still about Harry and Voldemort growing in strength and their eventual meeting. Evidently there are going to be 4 more movies and I really have no idea where the story is going or what the focus on the series is going to be. This film was half spent playing hide and seek with magical creatures for laughs and the other half fighting a dark demon in New York. Where do you go from here? I really don’t like the Hobbit movies but at least the first Hobbit film was a clear start to a journey and series.
Also, the other big problem I had is in the acting choices made throughout the film. Eddie Redmayne in particular mumbled most of his dialogue to the point where I was constantly leaning over to my friend asking her “what did he just say?” Some other actors were laying on the New York accent very thickly and it made them difficult to understand.
A lot of the actors like Colin Farrell are underused. Academy award winner Jon Voight is in like 2 scenes and Ron Perlman is briefly seen. I guess they could appear more in future installments but it’s odd when you have such well known actors in small roles. I guess they will clear things up in future installments but I found myself confused particularly on the B more scary story-line
In the end, it’s not a horrible movie but I did walk away feeling disappointed. There is fun to be had with the magical beasts and characters like Queenie but it’s hard to endorse a movie when I can’t understand the lead character most of the time.
The tonal problems and lack of overall compelling story are also hard to ignore. Like I said, in my youtube review I gave it a B- but today I am going with a lower grade.
Overall Grade- C+
Also, I don’t think this movie is going to appeal to kids much. I think they will find it kind of boring. Both my friend and I agreed on that leaving the theater. But see it for yourself and decide.