Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016) – Same old, same old #review

I really wanted to like J.K. Rowling’s new tale. I wasn’t sold this summer on the “Cursed Child”. I cursed that play into the fiery depths of oblivion for being worse than a fanfic put together by a newb on A03. I kept my mouth shut on the casting and was actually curious to see if Colin Farrell can put together a decent performance. Let me give you some spoilers – yes, this review/rant will have spoilers – on how I won a personal bet. J.K. isn’t able to craft a scenario and bring something new to the table. Sure, you’ve read by now a pile of reviews and the grades on RottenTomatoes and Metacritic give us hope for the best cinema going experience but what get is actually a cold shower also known as facts and low points concerning this new franchise.

You’re an interesting man, Mr. Scamander. Just like your suitcase, I think there’s more to you than meets the eye. Kicked out of Hogwarts for endangering human life with a beast, yet one of your teachers argued strongly against your expulsion. I wonder… what makes Albus Dumbledore so fond of you, Mr. Scamander? (Percival Graves)

Riiiight. New Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is bland and boring but there might a silver lining concerning this not so spectacular situation. Why you may ask?

Because the script of this new tale, penned by J.K. Rowling and now spanning into five movies to hit the cinemas, isn’t about Newt. You’ve read that correctly. My theory is, these movies wrapped around the journeys of Newt across the pond to gather knowledge about the fantastical, magical beasts the wizarding world disregard, are in fact the stage for Albus Dumbledore and Gellert Grindelwald to have their epic showdown. And I wouldn’t mind that. Not one bit if I didn’t know how J.K. Rowling treats the antagonists of the tales. You see gentle readers, there is no grey area when it comes to the villains among wizards, according to J.K. Voldemort was stripped oF any kind of humanity and turned into a pathetic excuse of a one-dimension antagonist who wants to take over the world. You might have enjoyed the bits and pieces of his tragic youth but by the time the Second Wizarding War came into being, he was as shallow as a MCU villain.

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Now, here comes Gellert Grindelwald played by Johnny Depp. I was keeping by fingers crossed when it came to a big revelation by the time the third act of the movie wrapped itself. Yup, here is the big bad spoiler, Percival Graves, the US Auror was in fact Gellert. This explains somehow Farrell void of enthusiasm performance (why would you do that with such a rich character? oh, I know. J.K. love of poor antagonists) he wasn’t Percival, he was Gellert and he needed to hide himself. You hope for some motivation beyond world domination? You don’t get one! You want some substance? A big speech? Some motives? You get some. By the time Colin stops twirling the Deathly Hallows pendant you’ve already made the connections in your mind and when Johnny’s blonde mop is seen, you grin and you hold your breath .”Please Johnny, don’t fuck this up” is what goes on and on in your head. Those minutes were the best for me from this whole mess of the movie.

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Sorry, I wasn’t sold on the MACUSA, on Newt, on the forced wannabe relationship between Newt and Trina. I’ve been down that road before with Ron and Hermione. They don’t work together, J.K.! Stop trying to add a sad sob story with a Lestrange there – yeah, HP names will pop up during this movie so you won’t try to scratch your head with a shady tale about the Second Salem gang and a poor kid (Ezra Miller) with issues.

We get the obsessive themes J.K. loves to bring forth over and over again. The persecutions, the abuse, the small minded individuals, the fact some are blessed with tolerance and others succumb to the darkness. Besides the attempt of redeeming Snape, J.K. Rowling never tried to construct a full fledged villain. In fact she made a mockery of the antagonist trope with silly and grotesque caricatures of individuals – what? you thought Dolores was such an awesome villain? she was a patched excuse to bring forth bigotry and sadism at its best, you never received a motivation from her simply because J.K. doesn’t want you to side with the villains, it’s a children’s book after all…right? Don’t let me start on the Lucius and Draco Malfoy fiasco. Lucky for us, the actors did their best with the script and desire of the author to make them look like idiots, cowardly figures – yes, because in J.K.’s world, villains are stupid and cowards.

David Yates brings out the big guns in terms of CGI and walking down memory lane. The special effects are great but we get too many scenes which could easily have been added as deleted material on the Blu-ray and not enough character construction on secondary figures. The Second Salem bunch it’s a sham, a brutish, one-dimensional take of what the bigots look like, the no-mages are there to awe and we’re back with the same old, same old take in the big finale: one city under destruction and the hero must save the day. We’ve seen it before.

Bottom line, this movie serves as a starting ground and hopefully, we’ll get more on Gellert and his fanatics and Newt will serve as exposition material. He will travel the world and oh, look, more bad guys ahead! I wish by the end of the fifth movie – which will take place in 1945 – we might get a glimpse on the rise of Voldemort. I hope we will see characters developed, layers added to their personality and J.K.’s obsessions on said characters won’t damage the plot. But hey, I’ve walked this road before and I’m almost certain I will be disappointed.

 Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a trip down memory lane. We desperately wanted to get back those feelings we had when we were young and going to a HP movie was a wonderful affair. We grew up and as much as the smoke and mirrors will try to do their best, the mirror of Erised taught us a lesson. 

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