I grew up with Harry Potter- I consumed all seven books in seven days. After reading the books, I was allowed to watch the movies, a self-imposed rule. I remember watching the movies, comparing lines and character arcs to the books I loved dearly, being impressed with the accuracy- the characters in my head were moving on the screen, just as I imagined them. There is something special about animating the written word, something Percy Jackson fans never experienced (Sorry about that guys, the only similarity between the book and movie was the title!). I was so excited to visit the Harry Potter world again, hear the theme, see the Warner Brothers’ logo, feel a huge grin on my face, as I watch my favorite characters deliver iconic lines in an iconic castle. However, I will never understand why the Fantastic Beasts movie series was made were made, but- here we are. Instead of feeling like a love letter to Harry Potter fans, this movie felt like a cash grab, cashing in on nostalgia.
This is not to say that you shouldn’t watch the movie, but the director was definitely making the movie for a specific audience. This movie is a sequel to a prequel of a long series, so if you’re planning on watching the movie- make sure you’re caught up. You must see the first movie, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, or I swear- NOTHING will make sense. It’s also crucial that you read the Harry Potter series, with so many details sprinkled in its pages. And I truly mean read- just watching the movies isn’t going to cut it. That being said, to those few loyal fans, more accurately – millions, who invested great portions of their lives to Harry Potter, I would recommend seeing the movie. Similar to having a burnt turkey on Thanksgiving, this movie is the embodiment of “It’s the thought that counts”. So over Thanksgiving break, check out this movie with other Potterheads. But try to attend a matinee, because you don’t want to pay full price. This movie demands a lot from its viewer, with little return.
And now Spoilers. Don’t ruin the movie for yourself if you haven’t seen it yet and read ahead, because 90% of the movie is just guessing what happening next and trying to decipher plot lines. And don’t cheat yourself out of that fun!***Spoilers (Seriously, don’t cheat!)
The resurrection stone was hidden in the snitch, reading, “I open at the close”, so as we resurrect the series and its subsequent tales, we’ll do just that: I’ll open at the closing of the movie: it’s ending. To be honest, I wasn’t sure the ending was even happening. Unlike the original Harry Potter movies, with clever twists and exciting plot lines, this ending felt rushed and disappointing. The entire movie revolves around finding Credence Barebone and discovering his identity. But instead of working off clues to locate him, we know where he is the whole time. The whole plot felt like it wasn’t thought through. But the worst part of the movie was the reveal of Credence’s true identity. Credence is an orphan seeking his birth parents, while the rest of the wizarding world, including international ministries, is hunting for the truth. However, the truth is genuinely revealed as the very last scene of the movie, with a quick cut to black. I felt cheated and left with more questions than answers. This movie sets up the next movie, without even being a satisfying movie itself.
The characters also feel rather unfinished, with excellent moments scattered in pretty dull dialogue, with most of its comedic relief hidden in throw away lines. Newt Scamander, while a loveable goofball, is still distant. His character works because he understands his pets and magical creatures, but not the other characters, leading to some humorous moments. Gellert Grindelwald, is another main character, but unlike Newt, the actor generated more buzz than the character, with Johnny Depp’s ex-wife accusing him of domestic abuse, only to drop the charges. Potterheads were NOT happy, demanding that Depp be recast. The controversy fell on deaf ears, as the director and Rowling herself continue to defend Depp. The unsettling nature of Grindelwald was well personified by Depp, but that is really the only take away from the character. Another sore spot for the franchise is the portrayal of Dumbledore’s sexuality. While fans and the author, all universally recognize that Dumbledore is gay, the movie awkwardly danced around it- even creating the cringy moment of describing Dumbledore and Grindelwald’s relationship (who were romantic partners) as brotherly, to which Dumbledore adds, “We were closer than brothers”. I don’t know what I was expecting, but Dumbledore won’t be a gay icon anytime soon, if anything, that scene did more harm than good, hiding in innuendo. Despite having a beloved character from the original movies, the most compelling character, to me, was Leta Lestrange, Newt’s brother’s fiancée. While the movie created an unnecessary love triangle, as she loves Newt but is engaged to his brother, her most compelling scenes explored her dark past and turbulent childhood. Her father “magically” raped and imprisoned her mother, which is conveniently glossed over. My favorite part of the movie is the scene in which she switches her half-brother with another baby to avoid hearing his cries, and the ship they’re on goes down, ultimately killing the mother and her real brother. But she still holds onto the other baby, carrying the dark secret with her for her whole life. This recalled an earlier scene, satisfyingly tying up a plot line, a rarity for this movie. Honestly, it’s the best scene. And then she “dies.” (Yeah okay- let’s see what happens.) Other characters with conveniently glossed over plot points are Queenie Goldstein and Jacob Kowalski, a loveable couple in the prequel, who are separated because of his lack of magic. But when Queenie enchants him with a love potion, it is supposed to be seen as romantic. Queenie basically drugs him into marrying her, a scene that if genders were reversed, would cause extreme backlash, whereas it’s used as a cheap joke, demonstrating Queenie’s love for Jacob.
CGI and Set Imagination:
Contrary to the awkward characters and lacking plot, the scenery and CGI were phenomenal. The movie can get away with it’s many faults because it is visually stunning. Intricate scenes and fine details liven up many of the slower scenes, with crane sequences and 360 degree scenery. This element of the film seemed most reminiscent of the original movies. One of the final scenes has Hedwig’s Theme paired with images of the iconic Hogwarts Castle playing over, finally delivering the nostalgia that viewers came for. The movie found its niche. Minute before the credits rolled. If nothing else, it’s a smart way to send the viewer off- with a reminder of the reason they came to theater in the first place.
While the movie is wildly inconsistent with pacing and characters seemingly unfinished, I’m glad that I saw it. Harry Potter is a presence in my life, much like a family member I haven’t seen in a while. Nostalgia is a powerful force and it carries the movie far. While I left disappointed, I also know that I will be first in line for the next movie.