director: David Yates
writers: J.K. Rowling
starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston and Alison Sudol
genre: Adventure | Family | Fantasy
released: 18 November 2016 (USA)
J.K. Rowling may have created one of the best children book series in 'Harry Potter' which gave way to one of the most highly acclaimed and profitable film series of the same name. However, her new chapter in the same universe has nothing in common with the previous one in terms of mystery, characters or even magic. It is a simplistic film that is shallow, dreadfully unexciting and should be regarded as a disappointment by both fans of the films and books.
The events in the film are set in the same universe of 'Harry Potter,' but don't follow the same array of characters or decade. It is now set in 1926 New York, where we follow a young beast handling magician by the name of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and his free-thinking mind of nurturing beasts, rather than vanishing them.
Unfortunate for him, he will have to defend his way of life at the worst of times when possible beast sightings are heard of in the human world. He and a few other wizards will have to get to the bottom of the mystery and see if they can do anything about it, while a larger force lurks in the shadows.
Surprisingly, or unsurprisingly more like it, the film isn't only about 'Fantastic Beasts', even though they take up a significant amount of the film's overall run time and the title of the film. The film also happens to be about a group of wizards and human coming together to fight a great evil in a completely coincidental fashion. Naturally, coincidence is fine when things seem to work together to a greater goal. However, the film itself had too many subplots to focus on and did so on purpose to cast suspicions aside from the mystery characters in the film. With a politician subplot which led many to believe humans would have a greater part in this film series, but alas they didn't. Then we had moments of complete silliness such as the magic dinner scene or the zoo escape which were childish and served no purpose to the overall story. Neither did they help the characters in general, besides showing that they can do activities together. It seems Rowling's new series has turned out to be a more children's film series than the Harry Potter films before it. And even though this series might have adult lead characters and a supposed more adult setting, it is a children's film in its entirety. From the simplistic characters who speak in generalities and never get in depth about how they feel, do or want and a narrative that wasn't clear cut with what it’s about. Lastly, there is huge amount of eye candy with all the mystical beasts involved and running about. All this wasn't made for you or I, but for those under the age of 12.
Additionally, the Harry Potter books/films were about the titular character Harry Potter and each chapter had its subtitle being more specific about what the individual book/film was about. Now, is this series just about Fantastic Beasts and was the first film about where to find them? Because it begs the question: What will the next film be called? 'Fantastic Beasts: Gotta Catch Them All'? This might sound as the most ridiculous of criticisms, but is the film series going to be about beasts, and only beasts? Or will the team get something to do besides being caught in a monster mystery? As the film showed us it only cared about the beasts till it made its big twist.
Furthermore, we all applaud J.K. Rowling for her writing of the 'Harry Potter' books and the creation of a wonderful universe for us to enjoy. However, I don't think the same could be said about 'Fantastic Beasts'. It seems to have been crafted just for a continuation of the brand to exist and for more money to be made. Although, that isn't to say that a story isn't there to be told and that Beasts couldn't be incorporated in it. The problem is that the film had more interesting subjects to deal with, but wasted a lot of time on fictional CGI creatures. When we could have better dealt with the divide in the magic community about being revealed to humans or not. Instead, what we get is a fairly fast paced narrative of clumsy accidents, beasts getting into situations they shouldn't, characters constantly having to explain their actions and then embark on an adventure they never asked to be on or even thought was happening and then that's the film ladies and gentleman.
Compare all this with Harry Potter where it was about a kid trying to find his place in the world (home, family, purpose) to Newt arriving in N.Y., meeting randomly the two other characters of film and just trying to mind his own business catching the beasts out of his briefcase and then suddenly getting entangled in a mega beast revelation that another magician was handling 3/4 into the film. This is not great screenwriting and its evident J.K. Rowling is out of her element. With the film being devoid of character development, layered with meaningless Easter eggs as we don't know any of these characters enough to care. Subsequently, making all the sentimental moments that arrive later in the film completely inconsequential. Same with the twist the film has. There wasn't anything surprising about it and felt unnecessary. Nothing in this film for that matter will wow you. Nothing in this film can make you tell another person they must see it and everything about this film ruins the name J.K. Rowling had as an individual invested in her creations and not in it for the money.
The old series of films started out with a great introduction to the world of magic with many secrets to be told and a larger than life prophecy for its lead character to follow on. This series introduced us to a bunch of CGI beasts that are good to sell merchandise, with characters who are sensitive and clumsy, which is not enough. In addition, to a major villain that is evil because he had to be. To sum up, not a great start to a future money maker that Warner Bros. and J.K. Rowling desperately hope it continues to be.