Given how vocal I am about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, X-Files Season 10, Jurassic World, and so on all sucking, I just feel that I should say… Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is ACTUALLY REALLY REALLY GOOD!
I’m still bored to tears by everything being an endless franchise, and I have a moral objection to studios using things people care about as an ATM machine to just grab more and more cash because they know people feel like they have to see the latest instalment… And I also saw Arrival this weekend and I would recommend that if you want to see a very good Real Movie, as opposed to the type of things put together at Marvel Studios by 50 people with business degrees voting on what the artists should be allowed to do.
But this one is written by JK Rowling, and it seems like she found a story that she liked and she wanted to tell. Even if the dump truck full of money they pulled up to her house to get her to do this might have provided a bit of an extra incentive.
It’s not better than any of the books, but I would say that it’s the best Harry Potter MOVIE… The other movies, with the possible exception of Azkaban, aren’t really movies of their own so much as they are fan service for people who read the books and want to see their favorite scenes in live action. This one is actually written and made as a movie, and it works much better. Some people have said Rowling doesn’t know how to write a screenplay, and I think what they really mean is that she doesn’t know how to write a typical Hollywood screenplay, and thank god for that. The structure is weird, but very her. This one has her sense of humor, her invention, and her detailed plotting that the books have where everything pays off and is thought out. But being written as a movie, it’s all here, there aren’t weird holes and things that aren’t explained because they had to cut out parts of a book.
This one feels like JK Rowling, which is such a relief, because after the garbage that was Cursed Child, I thought maybe she didn’t have any more stories in this universe left in her. I’m pretty sure now that she had little or nothing to do with writing Cursed Child, I just wish we knew why she let them label it as an official Harry Potter story. Maybe my opinion of this one benefited from Cursed Child lowering my expectations to zero. After CC I was expecting this movie to be awful.
If anything, I think she doesn’t quite have the same handle on how things play out visually as she did on how they worked in her books. All the twists and surprises in this movie, I guessed about an hour before they happened, down to minute things. The biggest “surprise” in the movie was actually something I thought was obvious when I watched the trailer. I won’t spoil it here in case some people didn’t notice, but I spent the whole movie thinking, “Wait, do they seriously think we don’t know this already…?” It’s not a big flaw, though. The books are still fun to reread even after you know the surprises. She was much more clever about hiding her foreshadowing then, though.
The other thing that might not work for fans of the books is that the characters aren’t children, and they don’t have a direct tie to Harry Potter’s life. If that’s what you’re interested in, then it’s not here. Which I think is great, especially after how continuing that story was botched in CC. The great thing about the Harry Potter books is that they’re a closed circle. They’re so carefully designed, everything is there for a reason and it all pays off. Going back to that story just opens up a million problems, as all the plot holes and bad decisions in CC show. If she’s going back to her wizarding world, another era and new characters is the way to do it. And there’s still enough familiar that you feel like you’re in the same universe.
Also I like that the characters aren’t kids. Reading the books, I always kind of felt like Dumbledore and McGonagall probably had much more interesting lives than Harry. There’s this big wizarding war going on, and we mostly only see the parts that take place at this one boarding school. She made it work, of course, but I always liked the storylines involving the teachers much more than chapters about who’s going to win a Quidditch match or whatever. I like Fantastic Beasts a lot for this reason. Maybe some kids will find it boring for that reason, but I don’t think so. It’s still pretty fun, and the original books were never just for kids or adults to begin with.
I thought it was really good. Well worth checking out!