Review – Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
Directed by: David Yates
Written by: JK Rowling
Produced by: JK Rowling
Release Date: November 18th 2016
It is that time again. That time that I decide I hate myself enough to revisit one of the worst movies I have ever seen for review. This time I decided to go back and review Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, (AKA: JK Rowling and the Never Ending Quest for More Money.)
Full disclosure going in; I have never been a fan of the Harry Potter franchise. I’ve read a few of the books and seen a few of the movies and it just hasn’t ever been my thing. Honestly, I’m not even a fan of fantasy in general. I think that Lord Of The Rings is garbage and the worst parts of Game Of Thrones were the fantasy elements, (well that and the ending!) The last Harry Potter movie I saw was the fourth one I think? However, I was willing to go into this movie with a clean slate and hopefully have it win me over and unfortunately it didn’t. Also this review will contain spoilers if you care about that sort of thing.
This film is a prequel to the other Harry Potter movies, this time set in America rather than Britain and telling the story of the events that led to the great wizarding war between Dumbledore and Grindlewald. These films did have potential in that sense; to see what would have essentially been WWII fought with magic could be really cool. Unfortunately all we get here is setup and when we get to the sequel it was an even bigger let-down.
Fantastic Beasts opens with Eddie Redmayne’s character, Newt Scamander going to New York from London to set free one of the beasts that he keeps inside his Tardis-like brief case. Then he ends up in a bank and meets a ‘Nomaj,’ which is this film’s lazy version of a ‘muggle,’ who we learn is a simple lonely guy that just wants to open his own bakery and that’s another character cliché ticked off the list. We now have the double act of the nerdy, snivelling protagonist and the overweight, sympathetic sidekick. Also, for the rest of this review I will be referring to the baker character as fat bloke. This isn’t to be derogatory, but is purely because the script relies on the, ‘fat, jolly, sympathetic, pathetic loner’ stereotype and passes it off as a character arc. If the script isn’t treating the character with any respect, then why should I? So fat bloke it is then.
Of course, the two of them have the exact same briefcase and after some cartoony looking CGI animals escape from Redmayne’s case in the bank the suitcases predictably get mixed up. Then the fat bloke gets his bakery loan declined and returns home with Redmayne’s suitcase. This is followed by more bad CGI animals open the case and attack the fat bloke. Redmayne’s character then gets arrested by some wizarding inspector for letting the, ‘Nomaj,’ (urgh) get away after seeing the animals in the case and is taken to the New York Wizards base, I guess? Then it’s revealed that the wizarding inspector that arrested Redmayne is a pretty subpar inspector and she is trying to redeem herself in the eyes of her superiors. So in front of this high wizard council she confiscates the case from Redmayne and opens it only to reveal a bunch of cakes inside. Yes, really… Who writes this garbage? What Rowling is doing to Harry Potter is worse than what Lucas did to Star Wars during the prequels at this point.
So Redmayne gets set free and he goes to fat bloke’s house to find him lying on the floor, then some more bad CGI later the inspector turns up and they take him back to her house to meet her sister? Friend? Does it matter? She ends up becoming the love interest for fat bloke. Then, for no apparent reason Redmayne and fat bloke enter the case and he shows fat bloke all this crazy stuff that apparently humans aren’t supposed to see. Then Redmayne does some more snivelling and decides they have to sneak out of the girls’ apartment and recapture the animals that escaped in the bank and from fat bloke’s apartment. They get a couple of the beasts back then they go to central park to find Redmayne’s horny rhino and they dress fat bloke up in a leather rhino costume and use him as bait then they ice skate for a bit and capture the rhino. Again, really… I am not making this stuff up for satirical reasons.
After this, we see real life bad guy Ezra Miller playing some sort of weird emo child who is beat by his mother and is working with Colin Farrell to find a big bad dark spirit that is killing people around New York. Colin Farrell is definitely the best thing about the film at this point. After this a bunch of other stupid crap happens, such as Ron Perlman and John Voight coming into the movie, showing a ray of potential and then being totally wasted. The movie drags in the middle, but eventually after some more fat jokes, bad CGI and snivelling, all of the creatures are captured and Ezra Miller turns into a black death cloud or some such nonsense.
Then he boosts around New York, ruining everyone’s day as he goes and so Redmayne and Farrell follow him down to the subway to stop him. Redmayne seems to be talking him down and then Farrell shows up and essentially tells him to join the dark side. Then there is a CGI wand battle and the council from earlier show up out of nowhere and kill the black cloud of death. Then Colin Farrell gets annoyed and in the best scene in the movie murders half of the council members before he gets arrested by Eddie Redmayne with some magic handcuffs.
Then the worst part in the movie takes place. It is revealed that Colin Farrell is actually Johnny Depp in disguise. I mean he is Grindlewald in disguise but the important part for me is the replacement of Colin Farrell with Johnny Depp. Now I’m not the world’s biggest Colin Farrell fan, he is great in, ‘In Bruges,’ but other than that he is pretty meh, but he was definitely the best thing that this movie had going for it and they actually swapped him out! With Johnny-‘ooh’-Depp. As if this movie wasn’t bad enough they swapped out the best thing about it for Johnny Depp, the biggest joke in Hollywood.
Okay, let’s briefly talk about the technical side of the film before I score this thing. The whole cast of this movie is phoning it in, so the acting is fine but nothing to write home about. Farrell is the best thing in this movie, but in any future sequels, it will just be an ‘ooh,’ off between Depp and Redmayne. The direction is okay as the movie plods along sufficiently, but the writing is wildly inconsistent and the plot as stated above is all over the place. The lighting and cinematography in one single scene is fantastic, when Farrell and Miller are conversing in a dark alleyway but other than that they are pretty mundane too. The score is suitably Harry Potter like and the CGI is also to a similar standard of the Harry Potter films. The problem with that is that the CGI was ropey and of a fairly poor standard in the Harry Potter movies 10 years ago and it doesn’t seem like it has improved much since then. This movie clearly isn’t for me, but even from an objective standpoint, based solely from a moviemaking perspective this movie is poor.
Overall, after revisiting Fantastic Beasts for review; my recommendation is avoid this thing at all costs if you at all value your time. I suffered so that you don’t have to. Even if you are a fan of the fantasy genre, you could do so much better than this. The sequel to this absolutely tanked both commercially and critically, so hopefully with any luck we won’t be subjected to any more garbage from this universe for a while.
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