I’m sad to say that Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (the new movie set in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter) is a pretty dull and plodding mediocre movie. It’s not without some strengths but generally speaking its so meandering and pointless that it grows tedious sitting through whatever story they are trying to get around to maybe telling.
Basic story is that Eddie Redmayne plays Newt Scamander, a British wizard who travels to NYC in 1927 for mysterious reasons. He brings with him a magical suitcase containing fantastic beasts which are illegal to have in the city. He runs afoul of a wizard detective who arrests him after he loses some of his creatures.
And also Collin Farrell plays another wizard detective who is working with (or shaking down) a teenager who is the adopted son of anti-witch activist. And this plot is so divorced from the Newt Scamander plot (such as it is) that every time they skipped over to it, I had to assure myself this has to be going somewhere. And, to be fair it does.
But that’s the thing – all the Harry Potter movies are rambling and shambling and eventually get around to revealing what in heck is going on… but it’s the world they are in that’s interesting. Kids at a magic school is inherently interesting – a bunch of adult wizards running around prohibition-era NYC is not really all that magical. Not to mention the 1927 NYC is just full of stereotypes and cliches… look, a mobster, look a speakeasy, look a classic gangster movie dame, etc.
Now the movie eventually gets around to its Big Bad plot and our main characters, even then, are so vaguely associated with the villain(s) that it barely makes sense why they are getting involved. And it ends with yet another smoke cloud monster that shows no creativity at all. And the reveal of the main villain that was so obvious I thought we had already been informed of it in the opening minute of the film. But I guess it was meant to be a surprise.
Also… the end of this movie. OMG. The end. It’s almost as bad as Return of the King and I’m not exaggerating. Only Return of the King had three movies to end but this takes ten minutes (or so) to resolve its subplots and give its characters goodbyes and its only dealing with one movie worth of backstory. Heck, one character gets two poignant goodbye scenes and I thought Newt Scamander would never get on that damn boat. “Just. Go. No. Don’t stop. Ugh. No. Go. Don’t stop again!” Ugh. I guess if you were into the movie this would be emotional and cathartic… but didn’t work on me.
One semi-positive thing is that this movie largely feels like a complete movie. They are planning four more movies in the series and there are hints and some characters that didn’t really matter but the main character storylines could be considered done for the purposes of this movie. They can come back or not. But, that said, a surprise John Voigt is in this movie and his character basically does nothing but he is vaguelly menacing. He plays a Media Mogul newspaper man who is doing things and things and eventually gets around to maybe exposing the Wizarding World… that is until the wizards use their flashy thingies to wipe the minds of everyone in NYC… yes, the wizards are Men in Black Robes.
Anyhow, I suppose you’ll see this movie regardless of what I say or you weren’t going to see it anyway. It’s not a god-awful terrible movie but I struggle to find good things to say about it… this review has been so relentlessly negative, I’m not sure if I’m not just giving it credit for looking good and being Harry Potter related. But I’ve certainly legitimately seen worse movies and this is far from incompetently shot. I guess its just below average. Score: 68