Fantastic Beasts - Harry Potter minus Harry Potter


#1

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, inspired by J.K. Rowling’s book of the same name, comes out on November 18th. It’s the first part in a new trilogy starring Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander in a prequel to the Harry Potter series. David Yates directing.

The book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a textbook used by students at Hogwarts. The real 2001 book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a recreation of this fictional textbook. It’s basically a bunch of magic animal entries with fake notes printed in the margins from Ron Weasely. There are some anecdotes from Newt Scamander included as well, but nothing that could form the basis of a trilogy of movies.

Supposedly, the first movie will center on Newt Scamander’s adventures in the US in 1920’s. One of the complications is that in the US, wizarding is an even more closely guarded secret thanks to the Salem Witch Trials and generally puritanical beliefs. The script was written by Rowling herself.

The old thread became a catch-all for Rowling’s post-Potter wizarding stuff.


#2

Oh, wow. You know when I said it was a trilogy? That’s because that was the original plan.

That’s changed.

[quote]
The “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” spinoff will be a five-film franchise, J.K. Rowling said at a Warner Bros. fan event in London on Thursday.

“I’m pretty sure that there are going to be five movies, now that I’ve been able to properly plot them out,” Rowling said at the Empire Theatre in London.

“We always knew that there would be more than one,” she said. Three “Fantastic Beasts” films were initially anticipated, with the last in the trilogy expected to come out in November 2020.[/quote]


#3

Five movies until Warner Brothers decides the last movie needs to be broken up into five parts.


#4

Six movies and a season!


#5

Now Peter Jackson will realize that he can make a 105-part movie series based on the Silmarillion.


#6

Or how about a daytime live soap opera, what with the rotating actors and all?


#7

I wasn’t to interested in this until I saw the most recent trailer, and now I can’t wait.


#8

5 films equates to about 20 pages per film.

That seem excessively small. I imagine it’s all entirely new material?


#9

Well I saw this movie tonight with about… 12 friends and former co-workers. Visually it’s stunning. They did an excellent job with the beasts I thought. The portrayal of the time period was good too, if a bit lacking in color, note you wouldn’t know at all this is the roaring twenties. The actors did very well. I couldn’t help but feel throughout most the movie the books fans were laughing at and enjoying things that just weren’t on the screen. I wasn’t as emotionally engaged as I thought the plot attempted. It’s not a bad movie, just not great… coming from someone who was completely charmed by the first Harry Potter movie and never really fully drawn in after that. I am also not one of the book readers.

I had no idea they were not only turning this into a trilogy of some kind but 2 more movies according to my HP fan friends.


#10

Isn’t everything a trilogy now a days? :)

My papers movie reviewer loved this, so I will be going to see it in a few weeks. Need to see Doctor Strange first. The reviewer did say there were a lot of “easter eggs” for original Harry Potter fans.


#11

Actually… no.


#12

Well I think I mentioned I am not actually part of the HP fandom. My friends are. I just repeated what they said last night. I heard there were five films and that last two were a different focus, but okay. There are more regardless.


#13

So I liked this more than I expected, and better than at least half of the Potter movies. I should qualify that by saying I wasn’t wild about half the Potter movies … but still, this was a fun, if inconsistent, holiday release.

I never thought I wanted the Potterverse extended to 1920s New York City, but it turns out it’s a pretty good fit. Rowling does her usual thing of taking well-established pop culture tropes and overlaying well-established fantasy tropes on them, so the second leads are Just An Average Mug and a Goil With A Lot Of Moxie straight out of a 1920s Broadway musical. The plot is just as flimsy as a 1920s musical, too, relying on an enormous coincidence to get going and spending at least half the time on what can only be described as hijinks. But even though those elements are paper-thin, they’re fun in a carefree way that was missing from the Potter movies; it’s as if Rowling and company are relaxing after spending all those movies wrestling with Prophesies and Chosen Ones.

That applies to the main leads as well, a couple of earnest, nerdy young wizards who, even though they’re earnest and nerdy, come across as much more relaxed and natural than anyone in the Potter movies proper.

It’s far from perfect, or even consistent. It’s best described as lumpy. The pacing languishes in places, while the movie is overstuffed with detail in other spots. You’ll probably miss out on what’s going on at the end with the Thunderbird unless you were paying careful attention earlier in the movie and also know your Native American mythology. The dark cloud of Potter Lore rears its ugly head from time to time, causing abrupt tonal shifts and suggesting that future movies will be less fun and more Sturm and Drang. In other words, it suffers from the usual defects of the Potter movies.

But the Fantastic Beasts themselves are entertaining, the production design is amazing and all the leads are good.


#14

We never saw the HP movies (read the books and the last was a stinker for sure), thought Dr. Strange was a dud, so is this one worth it for me and the ladyface to see on the big screen Monday?

She liked Frozen, which I hated, and I don’t want to waste her time when we could be out collecting fossils or whatevs. Everything else showing looks like garbage.


#15

The family and I saw this yesterday and enjoyed it.

As HumanTon notes above, half the movie was kind of a silly physical-comedy with lots of ridiculous coincidences and magical high-jinks. The four leads fall into the 1920s stereotypes, playing people utterly without guile or malice as they pratfall their way across Guilded-Age NYC. However, Rowling knows her long game and there is plenty of scaffolding here that will no doubt be used in later movies. This movie - like many of the Potter books - slowly morphs from a silly story about recovering escaped critters, and moves to a much darker one about how forcing people to repress their natural selves can lead to harm… think the plot of Frozen but with a lot more Colin Farrel. And wands.

Overall, I’d put this movie up in the top tier of Potter films. Rowling was always pretty good, but her craft has matured quite a bit and this story is quite a bit better-paced than a lot of the early Potter books and matches the quality of her newer murder mystery books. It does drag in a couple places, but I’d argue that you need some down-time sequences sprinkled in with all the frenetic monster-hunting scenes.

One word of warning: except for some scenes taking place in Scamander’s secret bungalow/zoo the palate of the movie is gray, silver and brown. While there were plenty of occasions for cool 3D effects when magical animals zip and zoom around the screen, the 3D glasses simply make an already-muted scheme look muddy and depressing, which is not what the director was going for I don’t think. See it in 2D if you can.


#16

Saw this yesterday and I really, really liked it. I went with my 25 year-old daughter who is a massive fan of all things Potter, while I’ve been somewhat ambivalent about the movies and didn’t read the books.

Loved:

  • The main characters, all of whom were charming and likable people who I want to spend more time with
  • The period setting, which felt perfect for the universe (Harry Potter always felt out of it’s time to me, so it fits like a glove here)
  • The depiction of the interior of the suitcase, with it’s pseudo theatrical backdrops was beautiful

Liked:

  • The story meandered a bit, but I was interested to see where things were heading and I enjoyed the early hi-jinks
  • The little hints at backstory for Newt were intriguing and I look forward to seeing some of that leveraged in future movies

Not so much:

  • Some of the creature design didn’t really do it for me. I wish there was more actual mythological creatures versus ones invented for this universe. I liked the nod to Native American lore with the Thunderbird.
  • The way the main threat was visualized bored me. I feel like I’ve seen the same thing in a dozen other genre movies.
  • Like every genre movie I’ve watched lately, there’s a villain with inscrutable motivations behind it all (or maybe I missed some key bits and need to watch again to understand his purpose)

Agree with the previous comment on 3D/2D. I saw it in 2D (I’ve sworn off 3D after “Star Trek: Into 3D Darkness”, oops I mean Beyond). There’s quite a few scenes at night and I feel like it’ll be a muddy mess in 3D.

All-in-all, thumbs up!


#17

Well (and I saw it over the weekend too), this villain take place in the mainline Potter books too.

Sort of.

Now he never appears directly, as such, but is a figure in the background of the movies.

[spoiler]Grindelwald was mostly seen in a few scenes in the Deathly Hollows and Half Blood Prince. If you remember in that, when Voldemort is looking for the Elder Wand, the end game macguffin wand, the one Dumbledore posesses. He is killed when Voldemort comes looking for it, knowing that at one time he had it. In fact, if you pay attention, the necklace that he gives Credence is the Deathly Hollows symbol.

Remember that? The triangle with a circle inside with the wand inside that? The thing Harry spends time looking for to defeat Voldemort? Well Grindelwald is also part of that story. The Elder Wand is one part of that. So that necklace is where my suspicions were confirmed,a s it were.

And it is only vaguely hinted at in the books, and more vaguely in the movies, but that the Deathly Hollows were part of a plan to reveal wizardry to the world to usher in a (benevolent?) wizard ascendancy. He wanted to force wizards public so as to induce political revolution that would make them the ruling elite.

So it makes more sense knowing that he had been a friend, lover, and ally of Dumbledore who had a falling out over this power play. A falling out that killed Dumbledore’s sister. This movie takes place after that, I think. Hard to say for certain. But he was an established radical in the books, and this is merely expanding on what was a minor footnote there.

So his motives, and plans, make a fair amount of sense, if you know a bit about him. They even make sense on a very surface level once you realize his endgame is explicitly about forcing wizardry knowledge public. Why? That requires the background I gave, but what does make sense within the film I felt.[/spoiler]

However this is something I tend to agree with. The Potter universe did tend to mix and match broadly with general mythology and unique to their universe. But the ratio does seem skewered towards more unique to this universe creatures. Now that’s fine, if those serve a purpose. The Obscurus, for example, is perfectly fine being a new creature. But the magic rhino could have easily been something culled from traditional myth.

Given I had just finished American Gods, the Thunderbird was a rather nice touch I thought.


#18

The creature that steals coins and stuff is from Harry Potter. My son knew what it was right off, before it even fully appeared on screen, but I can’t remember the name of it now.


#19

You know, I forgot to touch on that:

First, mild spoilers: The sort-of Big Boss Bad Guy in the movie can turn into a roiling mass of smoke and cause property damage.

It’s possible that the “made of smoke” thing will be a magical innovation where Dark Wizards can harness their energy discovered in this time-frame, because of course we saw that all the time in the later Potter movies. Or maybe it was just a cool effect that the HP movie graphic artists came up with back in the day.

But beyond that, I’m getting kind of tired seeing evil depicted as big smoky clouds in these movies… it’s quickly becoming a cliche. The smoke critter in Lost; the (terrible) bad guy in Green Lantern; all the OTHER Harry Potter movies… it seems like having the bad guy being made of black, living smoke is a common go-to choice for today’s CGI artists. I’m not sure if it’s some type of weird meta-reaction to the threat of Global Warming or what, but it’s getting old.


#20

I wound up liking this a lot more than I thought I would. I think that’s based mostly on the strength of Dan Fogler’s performance as the hapless sidekick. He was really great.

I could’ve done with one less beast wrangling set-piece. I think the lovesick rhino thing could’ve been easily cut.

The 1920’s seem like a perfect fit for the Wizarding World. The low-tech period, the clothing, and the music just seemed to work really well.

I don’t know how I feel about the final reveal. First of all, I think I missed how Newt knew. He just suddenly had an “AH-HA” and then the unmasking. But why? Second, that make-up wasn’t doing the actor any favors, but I guess that’s what you get with him now.