I foresee writing about this several more times as I continue to watch/read/think about the film/screenplay and chat with other fans on the internet about the series. At this point, I have only seen the movie once. I’ve just started reading the screenplay (I’m only like 10 pages in), and I plan to finish the screenplay soon and see it a few more times before it’s out of theaters. I’ve watched several YouTubers’ reviews of the film and have generally thought about it, but I haven’t yet dived too deeply into things, so this post will be more about general thoughts than anything specific. I’ll get to that in later posts. I also expect my opinions will evolve slightly after I watch it more.
*PS – THIS REVIEW WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS*
First, I want to list off some of the things I loved about the film:
- In general, I like how dark/adult it was. The Potter franchise has truly aged along with its core fans, from growing up alongside Harry to having this new, adult-based story.
- It also had a lot of humor, and the humor was well done.
- I saw it on IMAX and the sound and visuals were incredible! I highly recommend seeing an IMAX screening if you can.
- THE ACTING. I think every actor nailed their parts, and their performances were fantastic (I’m so sorry).
- I quite like the concept of the Obscurial. It’s a very Rowling-esque invention, as she is known for writing about themes of acceptance and also fighting against institutionalization and mistreatment of children IRL. It totally makes sense that something horrific can come from repressed magic. I’m pretty confident (like most of the internet at the moment) this has something to do with what happened to Ariana Dumbledore.
- The Niffler. Who doesn’t love the Niffler!?
- THE SCORE! Another win for James Newton Howard!
- Johnny Depp’s Grindelwald look. HE LOOKS CRAZY AF and I’m so excited to see more of the crazy in the coming films.
- MOONCALVES!!! (They are 1 of only 3.5 beasts on my wish list of beasts I wanted in the film that are actually in the film) ((Nundu and Billywig were the others, and the .5 is the Fwooper, which may have appeared in the background of one shot)).
And now for the rest of my (more critical) thoughts:
Walking into the theater, I felt the most excited about a movie release than I’ve felt in ages, for obvious reasons. I knew a decent amount about the film before seeing it, so nothing that happened in the movie was a surprise to me, and I don’t think this affected my enjoyment of the film. I knew that it was to be an older, darker, very different story than the Potter story and that it had connections to the First Wizarding War in which Gellert Grindelwald is defeated by Albus Dumbledore. The movie is set in 1926, the year Tom Riddle is born. So while we are meeting entirely new characters, there are things afoot that we already know the outcomes of. This was all very exciting to me, but also puzzling. What I was most puzzled about was how Newt Scamander factors into these events and just why the movie was called Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. After finally seeing the movie, I’m still asking those questions.
We did get a delightful plotline about Newt and his escaped beasts wreaking havoc in NYC, but the clearer, more obvious direction of the series is the First Wizarding War. This made it feel as if the movie title was a misnomer and that the plotlines were a bit messy…like, what exactly is this movie about? I have faith that because the series is being written by J.K. Rowling herself, reasons will become clear in the upcoming films: as we know, she is extremely deliberate in her storytelling decisions, so there has to be a reason why she chose Newt as the lens through which we are to see the war unfold. There is already speculation that Albus Dumbledore set Newt up to go to America because he knew something about Graves and the MACUSA situation that he thought Newt could help with, which would be the most Dumbledore-est of moves. So I’m sure everything will all connect together and make sense once more of the movies come out, but unfortunately, this made the first movie feel a bit unfocused, and that the “Beasts” part of “Fantastic Beasts” didn’t really matter. I think that the movie will be best viewed as part of a series rather than a stand-alone film, which is fine because it is part of a series, but the best series films are always ones that can also stand by themselves. This was the set-up movie, and it very much felt like the set-up movie. Now we will have 4 more and will (hopefully) soon start getting to the good stuff. I left the theater feeling more curious than I felt satisfied, which is not necessarily a bad thing. What excites me most about this is the fact that there is so much new territory in this series, and now we get to ponder and question and speculate like it’s 2006! Bring it on!