Tonight* I want to post my reactions to “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” Lately I’ve mostly used Facebook for this, but I know even putting the spoilers in comments isn’t a sure way to protect my friends from them, since FB sometimes puts ‘Your friend posted this comment on her own post’ on people’s timelines. So here I come to my blog, because I’m not the sort of friend to spoil others! (Unless they want to be spoiled. I totally spoiled “Cursed Child” for a boy at work and “Arrival” for my brother this weekend. But they were both happy to be spoiled.)
So… Spoilers ahead, and please share your own spoiler-y reflections in comments here!
During movie thoughts:
- When Mary Lou started speaking at the beginning, I was so jarred to hear an American accent in a Harry Potter movie, lol! (The customs official didn’t count somehow.) Took me a minute or so to adjust my expectations and not feel like she was doing it wrong.
- This movie is so amazingly amazing! But they need to slow down on the amazingness and not just keep on throwing more amazing effects shots in our faces. Have your fun, effects-filled sequence and then settle into telling the story, please. You wave all these things you can do in my face but leave me no time to appreciate them, or even get a good look at many of them. It’s like spraying rich dark chocolate at me through a hose – I may enjoy what gets in my mouth, but most of it is wasted and I’m kinda grumpy in the end for the missed opportunities. At least I don’t walk out of the movie with chocolate all over my clothes. 😉
- “What caused Dumbledore to have such a high opinion of you?” Jealous, Grindelwald? *smirk* –I tend to doubt myself, so I can’t claim to have been totally certain all the way to the end, but I was pretty sure it was him at that point, and honestly suspicious from the beginning. People who look that good and have that much power, and have enough cred to get their mug in the trailer, but are not the protagonist, often turn out to be the hidden antagonist.
- Speaking of, Graves was SUPER good at the “honest, concerned” looks, like the one he threw Tina when she was shut out of the Auror department in the beginning. Loved ’em. But does that make Grindelwald a good actor, make Colin Farrell a good actor, make Colin Farrell an actor who didn’t add enough nuance to throw in that bit of doubt, or make Yates a director who insisted on intentionally-misleading shots? (Well, Yates is definitely that, with those shots of Modesty that clearly marked her as the obscurial. But is it ONLY that?)
- The day they filmed at the zoo must have been a great one to be on set. “Hey, come watch Eddie make a total fool of himself in an empty pen, everybody!” The guy behind us in the theater eventually commented, “Better him than me.” No kidding!
- Why did the invisible dark force suddenly become totally visible? How about those eyes the guy mentioned seeing in it at the beginning, where’d those eyes go? It certainly didn’t look the same at Shaw’s rally as it did in the subway. Maybe it changes a bit each time?
- THIS is how they kill condemned people magically? What happened to a good ol’ AK? If they aren’t prepared to kill them with those wands at the neck, why don’t more people fight to escape? Or why don’t the guards at least knock them out and then just throw them in the acid rather than having them sink in slowly? And please tell me the IMDb member who said it’s a reference to witch ducking is wrong! That would be SO twisted!
- I absolutely love that the American magical community’s president is a woman of color. And we didn’t see it but I was imagining a fresh look of horror on that newspaper guy’s face if he realized that when he was at the scene demanding justice for his son. Not that he didn’t also have a right to some answers regarding Shaw Jr’s death, and I may be reading more into his character and into the all-white attendance at the political event than I ought… but yep that was my reaction.
- I also love that snake-bird thing that fits its space like a giant magical goldfish, and the Aladdin-like trick to get it into a teapot! Brilliant writing/directing! And what a team the four of them make!
- Does Tina and Queenie’s seemingly-effortless magical cooking outdo Kowalski’s generational recipes and mountains of effort? I’m glad he’s too besotted to notice, ’cause that would be crushing if I were in his shoes. But maybe they practiced a ton just like him – certainly Hogwarts kids struggled at first with the simplest hover charm, never mind choreographing flying plates or baking a dish as you assemble it in mid-air!
- Durn right he gave him the eggshells! Took him long enough too – did no one else think of that when they were first mentioned? Though it just occurred to me to wonder how on earth one egg got out in the bank. Is he always shedding creatures and such? I’m not sure what I think the answer to that is… he’s inept with people for the most part (not that he gets the chance to interact much on even footing in this story), but he seems so good with the creatures, and that case is super well-made. Apart from the latches, anyway. That seems like a pretty serious glitch.
After movie thoughts:
- If there are 4 more movies with Newt, I hope he gets better at looking people in the eye. Do you think he could be somewhere on the autism spectrum? It’s certainly different watching this character than most. I appreciate Eddie’s versatility – loved him in “Theory of Everything,” and while I haven’t seen “The Danish Girl,” it’s yet another different sort of role from the usual leading-man jobs.
- This memory wipe thing stinks. Why not stick him in the case till Newt leaves the US? And what’s the deal with people inside their homes being effected by the rain? Too easy. What, it’s in the air humidity? In that case, Kowalski would have been wiped a lot sooner. Picky points aside, I file this under “Situations in sci-fi and fantasy I am thankful I will never have to face in the real world.” (such as what happens to Bean & Petra’s family at the end of the Ender’s Shadow series)
- As Jenn whispered to me when they first climbed into Newt’s suitcase, “And I thought Hermione was good!” (Referring to her magical bag.) I so agree! It’s amazing to see magic used by lots of competent adult wizards. Totally amazing. I suppose there’s a lot of apprentice or vocational-technical training or something, because I can’t imagine most Hogwarts grads doing what the folk here were doing with a flick of the wrist (not even muttering the spells most of the time – hm, that was inconsistent, they seem to only speak them when they’re spells fans will recognize). This fits with the real-world fact that trained adults can do a lot more than school children, magic or no magic, though there are certainly some teens who accomplish a lot. (Ever read “Do Hard Things”?)
- But if the professional wizards are this good at putting a city back together with a wave of their wands, why on earth do they live in Muggle cities instead of their own? Why not, say, make a whole country underground, entered through a magic door like Newt’s case or the Ministry’s various entrances? Or perhaps wave your wand to fashion a huge, fully-provisioned spaceship and go colonize Mars? Or maybe just load up some steamers and colonize a few islands? Be ambitious, take over Australia and make it Un-Plottable? C’mon, basic rule for writing fantasy, you have to have clear LIMITS to the power. You have to know what it CAN’T do, or you have no story. It seemed pretty limitless – yet also somewhat arbitrary – in this movie, which makes other aspects of the story hard to believe. For instance, Hogwarts knows who’s got magic, but the US magical government doesn’t know about Credence or notice that all the attacks start at one point on the map?
- Did no one die in that last attack? ‘Cause you can put THINGS back like they were, but corpses, not so much. Same problem with “Jupiter Ascending” – that really bugged me. (Boy, speaking of effect-show movies…)
- So do the sentient-but-non-human magical folk have to live in hiding all the freakin’ time?! Well, I suppose there are Hogsmeade-like communities in the US too. But man, it would stink to be one of those in the city, never showing your face on the street. I guess that applies in London just as much, I just never thought about it before. Hagrid managed to get around anyway.
- After all the excitement over the thunderbird pre-release, did he ever even mention its species? And how close to sentient are these beasts? “You know what to do”??
- Jenn had a super idea that maybe the dying girl Newt helped with an obscurus was Dumbledore’s sister. There are problems – wrong time-frame (before Dumbledore was Newt’s teacher, and judging from Depp’s white hair it was quite a few years ago), wrong location (I think Newt mentioned Sudan), and as the vlogger over at Super Carlin Brothers points out, Newt was obviously unaware of her since he claims the age of ten as the max and according to Aberforth she was 14 when she accidentally killed their mother and then died later that year. But it was a neat idea, and there certainly is a connection between her and this film. The connection is through Grindelwald looking for someone like his former friend’s late sister to use, rather than through Newt being someone who previously helped his teacher’s sister. Certainly this part of the plot adds something to the previous cannon explaining what she was dealing with. Cool? If such a terrible thing can be described with that word.
- The podcasters over at “Harry Potter and the Sacred Text” point out how nice it is to see a female lead who is strong, and who makes genuine (huge) mistakes and miscalculations but out of good intentions not just funny clumsiness. I’ll second that. Go, Tina! And I appreciate her somewhat awkward interactions with Newt, her non-standard way of holding herself (not the “gorgeous female lead” or “powerful police/agent” or whatever other roles we often see). I guess I should check out some of Katherine Waterson’s other movies and see if she’s as versatile as Eddie – and/or give Yates cred for good directing.
- I love that Jacob has some memories left after the storm – the creatures, possibly some connection with Queenie. The “Harry Potter and the Sacred Text” hosts pointed out that the exact description Newt gives of how he would use the venom is to help people forget BAD memories. Since Jacob’s experiences have largely been positive, why wouldn’t he retain some while the rest of the city forgets its dark nightmare with magic?
- I don’t get why Queenie falls for Jacob though. Other than the convention of “the sidekick deserves the reward of a pretty girl” – is there just a lot that goes on in his mind that we aren’t privy to but that attracts her? It’s not like they had a lot of time together, as far as we saw. Single supporting characters of the opposite sex don’t always have to end up romantically attached. I don’t necessarily object to them being together, and it’s nice that she’s willing to push a bit on the laws that separate them, but it isn’t given enough support to make it believable for me.
- How does Credence not know he is the Obscurial? He seems to retain his identity when he is in that form, since he targets people who have hurt him or those he cares about (I’m guessing the neighbor of his adopted sister was targeted for her sake), and he seems perhaps to respond to his name in the subway. He knows then that he needs help. Yet when help is being continually offered if only he will find the child, he doesn’t grasp it by revealing himself?
- They walk a fine line with the Second Salem group here, which is where the books and now the movie make me most uncomfortable. Remember Harry’s textbook talking about witches just being gently tickled by the flames but giving out pretend screams? (Why didn’t they do a memory charm and then move away instead?) I do believe that there is real witchcraft that involves evil spirits in the world we inhabit. God is infinitely more powerful than any demon, so those who believe in Jesus do not need to live in fear of witchcraft, but God has also said in both Old and New Testaments that it is a sin to be involved with witchcraft. The actual Salem witch trials were not at all Scriptural, and never do we see Jesus going on a witchhunt as he models how to live out God’s kingdom. Those and similar events in history make me sad and ashamed for how the church acted, when I believe the true church is called to stand up for the marginalized and attract people to the Gospel by living it out rather than enforcing it like sharia law. But then pulling these terrible real-world mis-applications of truth, into a fantasy world in which magic is to some extent simply inborn power rather than a meddling with the spiritual realm to gain power, muddles it even more. “Your mother was a wicked, unnatural woman” – the filmmakers manage to stop short of “sinful, evil witch” and thankfully they don’t give her a cross to hold as she crusades (they obviously know better than to blatantly alienate the church and its ticket-buying money given the headaches the books went through a couple decades ago) but yeah the whole Salem reference just makes me uncomfortable. It’s hard to suspend disbelief and enter willingly into an alternative reality for a story when it keeps yanking on bad memories from the real world. I hope they’ve finished with that plot element with this movie and Grindelwald will find other pressure points to exploit in the following installments.
- The memory of Tina rolling under that lowering dome made me reflect on how the president and aurors continually try to shut her out, and then at the inquest the president very unfairly blames her for withholding information when it was she who refused to listen to Tina telling her the exact same information just the day before. They continue to not listen to her when they kill Credence, and yet if only they had, he could probably have been saved. It’s not like he KNEW he was breaking the law, and though I realize ignorance of the law isn’t an excuse to break it, shouldn’t he at least get a trial and possibly a chance to (learn how to) change his ways before being blasted to smithereens?? I am also reflecting on a conversation with a Native American minister on the topic of redeeming the story of the first Thanksgiving, over on Christianity Today’s “Quick to Listen” podcast. He talks about how the Native American culture has qualities to offer the broader American church, one of which is consensus. Quick review if you don’t know, “compromise” means each side giving up something to get something, while “consensus” means finding a win-win path, coming to agreement rather than just saying “fine, I’ll do without this thing I want, can we move on now?” A Native American church he pastored did away with committees and simply met to discuss and decide things. He said (I paraphrase), “You know that person who keeps bringing up objections and you wish he would just stop? In a democracy you can just overrule him. But I found that as we were forced to listen, that often that person had seen something the rest of us had missed.” The fictional American magical president (perhaps the non-fiction current and upcoming muggle ones as well) could really stand to listen a lot more rather than pushing law and majority rule and steamrolling over dissenting voices.
Other thoughts? I’m sure I had a couple more while driving home, but now it’s late and I’m for bed. SO glad they made it, SO glad I saw it on the big screen, all nitpicks and plot holes aside. VERY fun to have a new series to look forward to continuing!
*I added several points a couple days after watching, as you may guess from the references to various other spoiler-y media. I certainly did not watch or listen to such media before seeing the film!