SPECIAL POST – Thoughts on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

One of the reasons I made my ‘SPECIAL POST – Thoughts on Harry Potter on the Cursed Child’ blurb was because I felt there were some things in the play that were relevant to our ship. That is not the case with Fantastic Beasts (unless perhaps Credence ends up being Snape’s grandfather, one of many theories about him), but one of my commenters asked me to write up my thoughts on it, so I thought I would. This will be a bit messy, and is not really a review, just a ramble.

First of all, I really dislike Eddie Redmayne, so I was quite dubious about the film. A Hufflepuff lead played by Eddie Redmayne? In AMERICA? About animals? Just…no. It sounded awful to me.

Perhaps it was these low expectations that caused me to be pleasantly surprised. I really enjoyed the film. Was it as magical as ‘Harry Potter?’ No, of course not. But I thought there was some of that magic, and I LOVED Newt. Having an introverted, quiet, lead character felt so good. You very rarely see that – the hobbits in Lord of the Rings were the only example I could think of. Usually it’s brave, loud Gryffindors who push their way to the forefront and become protagonists. I loved how polite, how awkward, (and not affected I’m-so-charming awkwardness, which is what I dislike about E. Redmayne. It felt genuine.) and how sensitive Newt was. A guy who doesn’t really fit in with the world and does the bare minimum of human interaction…but comes alive when he enters his special world of his hobby (the suitcase?) YEAH I CAN IDENTIFY WITH THAT. Talk to me about anything and I will be awkward and quiet, but bring up Harry Potter, cosplay, or philosophy and I will talk your ear off. I almost thought he was a bit of a Huffleclaw, given his rich inner world – there are shades of Luna Lovegood in Newt, don’t you think? Fitting that she eventually marries his grandson. I thought most Harry Potter fans would totally identify with Newt and was surprised to find out that most of my HP friends did not like him.

As for the other main characters – I am neither here nor there on Queenie, Jacob, and Tina. I don’t really love them, but there are a ton of HP characters I don’t really love either, so this is not a problem for me. In HP, I love Luna, Snape, Hermione, Lupin, and Dumbledore. Out of 7 books. In this movie, I love Newt Scamander and am curious about Credence. That’s not bad. I know there will be many more characters for me to explore in subsequent movies and hopefully I will find one that I fall in love with.

I thought the best and most interesting addition to canon – and the part of the movie that felt the most magical – was the Obscurus and Obscurials. Those are a beautiful idea that absolutely felt like an organic part of the Wizarding World. If I had read about Obscurials and Obscurus in a fanfic, I would have been blown away by it. Dumbledore’s sister, Ariana, was probably an Obscurial. If you haven’t seen the articles about it, here is a direct quote form Deathly Hallows – “It destroyed her, what they did: She was never right again. She wouldn’t use magic, but she couldn’t get rid of it; it turned inward and drove her mad, it exploded out of her when she couldn’t control it, and at times she was strange and dangerous. But mostly she was sweet and scared and harmless.” Awesome! It sounds as though an Obscurus was something JKR had already come up with but couldn’t fit in to Harry Potter, so it came out in Fantastic Beasts. Haunting, beautiful, and painfully human at its core. Classic Wizarding World – excellent, excellent stuff.

My biggest disappointment in the film (well, the whole FB franchise) is that JKR chose to focus on Dumbledore and Grindelwald. I feel like that is a story I am not interested in – I hope the proceeding movies in the franchise prove me wrong, but Grindelwald, the Hallows, and Dumbledore’s backstory was my least favorite part of Deathly Hallows, so I am not excited to learn more about it. I wish so much that she had chosen to do the Founders, or tell another story entirely. (I love the idea of the Mauraders, but we already know that story and are too close to it. The Founders would have been more appropriate.) I think the whole DD/GW concept is a mistake. I also think Johnny Depp’s casting was a huge mistake. I don’t care about the issues he has in his personal life; I just think casting a huge name American actor for a beloved British franchise is a wrong. He should have been a German/Austrian unknown, or a moderately known British one. Johnny Depp just feels entirely wrong. And even worse than the casting was the STYLING. The stupid bleached hair and mustache? Are you kidding me? He looked idiotic and it really took me out of the world.

Another problem with the film was that it was set in the United States. Part of what I love so much about Harry Potter is the setting in the British school system, the Victorian-like nature of many wizards, and just how charmingly British the whole thing is. As an American myself, and an ill-informed child when I first read the books, I honestly thought that JKR had invented headmasters, prefects, Christmas crackers, school houses, etc. Obviously, they just turned out to actual British things. So, a setting change to America removes so much of the magic and charm for me. I am so glad that the next film is set in France. I hope we do not see a return to the US.

I am hopeful for the next movies, though. I LOVE the idea that the next one will be set in France. I LOVE the idea that the story concludes in 1945 an we started in 1926 – we have 20 years of story to tell in 5 movies. THAT is appropriate. I know some people are worried about the 5 movies because it smacks of ‘The Hobbit’ series (which I HATED, lest any of you think I will defend any sequel) and too little butter spread over too much bread, but if each movie has a new setting, new characters, and a 4 year time jump to work with? I think we really do have the potential for an vibrant, full, amazing franchise and I am very optimistic.

The bottom line: Newt Scamander is an incredible character. I believe he’s a Huffleclaw and as a sensitive, quiet Luna-esque Ravenclaw myself, I adore him. 5 movies is appropriate because of the 20 year long story and the setting changes. Johnny Depp’s casting was a mistake and the styling choices for his character were an even bigger mistake. I’m not a fan of the DD/GW story choice, but it could be worse.

I’ll echo what I said in my Cursed Child review – we are adults now and we are much more difficult to please and much more cynical. It’s difficult for us to find magic. Let yourself enjoy the magic in the movie and try not to focus on your criticisms. Let’s see how the franchise unfolds. Nox!