If you haven’t read Carrie’s review of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, I highly recommend doing so before reading this review, as I don’t plan on rehashing the plot so much. My quick and dirty summary is that a wizard (Newt) enters New York with a case full of fantastic beasts. Said beasts escape while an unknown force is terrorizing the city and a bad wizard is making the headlines. The beasts are blamed for all the shitty things going on, when it reality it’s the work of something else.
There, that’s the plot from my point of view.
The main reason we’re running two reviews is that Carrie and I are coming at this movie from two completely different viewpoints, and before I say why, I need you to sit down.
This might be a shocking admission, but I have never finished the Harry Potter series, whether in book or film form. I couldn’t make it through Order of the Phoenix because of the insane amount of angst. I’m pretty sure my family’s copy still has my bookmark left in it where I threw in the towel. Seriously, I am a romance reader, a devourer of melodrama, and I just couldn’t do it.
Do I regret it? Not really. Life is too short for books that don’t grab you. My main complaint is that I don’t get to bond with other HP readers because I know quite a lot of people who have been personally touched by the series.
So the most important question I feel I can answer is, Can non-HP readers see this movie? Yes, they can, but there are times where you’ll be confused. I firmly believe you’ll have a richer experience being more involved with Harry Potter. You’ll pick up on details like familiar names. You’ll have a more intimate knowledge of how the wizarding world works (i.e. I couldn’t remember what Aurors do for the life of me). Symbols and signs will make much more sense — the Deathly Hallows symbol means nothing to me.
If the movie looks fun and interesting to you, regardless of your experience with HP, you’ll be able to follow the plot line just fine, but deeper connections may go over your head.
But aside from my limited HP knowledge, I’m not quite sure I enjoyed this movie. To me…it was meh. There were things that bothered me and then later infuriated me after my comments turned into a full-blown rant during the post-movie car ride with my boyfriend. The biggest saving grace, honestly, was how gorgeous it was and I really did love seeing all the fantastic beasts. I’m a sucker for a movie with an ensemble – whether they’re a talented group of actors or CGI magical animals.
I do agree with Carrie in that the movie felt like several in one. The chaos of magical animals loose in a city of humans is enough of a conflict that I don’t think the evil force angle was really necessary. It watered down the first conflict. I would have had more of the movie focusing on the capture and care of those beasts.
The implied love interest also bugged the crap out of me.
After the movie, I messaged Sarah about my thoughts, to which she responded with the news that there are going to be several more sequels: five, I believe. I thought for sure that she was joking. But nope.
The thing that really grinds my gears is that Fantastic Beasts wraps up nearly everything in the movie. The bad guy is captured. Newt’s beasts are secured. There are no glaring loose threads. To me, there is really no need for another one, and the continuation seems very much like a cash grab. One of my greatest pet peeves is when an artist or creator doesn’t know when to leave well enough alone. You’ve had a great success with XYZ. Maybe try something new rather than running something into the ground.
I know there are many people who love Harry Potter and everything associated with it. They’ll keep revisiting that wizarding world because I’m sure it gives them such happy feelings, whether it’s catching up with favorite characters or getting that feeling of nostalgia. But for me, as someone who read only the early books when they first came out and as they were being published, I have no such attachment. Fantastic Beasts was a visually appealing movie, but I definitely didn’t find it magical.