The latest installment into the Harry Potter takes place in the 1920s and plays as a prequel to the Harry Potter era. This is the first Potter movie that we don’t have book that acts as the source material which is an exciting idea to see how they it was going to play out to an audience that wasn’t sure where this was going to go.
I have read all the Harry Potter books, including the textbooks JK Rowling had written post series, however despite that, I came into this movie with not a lot of excitement. I think the most part of that was because I was finished with the Harry Potter world and I wasn’t looking for a way back into it.
Throughout this movie we follow two story that for the most part, don’t have much to do with each other apart from a few moments of coincidence. The main story line follows Englishmen Newt Scamander, a beast expect, and his trip to America. During his trip, a few of his beast, in which he keeps in his brief case, manage to escape and run loose throughout the film. It’s up to Newt and his newly met human friend, or No-Mag, Kowalski, to track them all down and recapture them.
The second story plays more as an undertone throughout the film. This story line follows the magic government and their fight against a mystical creature causing destruction around the city. While cleaning up the destruction, the government is also face with outcry from No-Mag who believe there are magic beings as well as hunting down evil wizard Grindelwald.
This is where my first problem with the film came from. These two stories were so different that they never felt like they fit together. I also had a problem that the B story line with the government, was so much compelling and interesting than the Newt story line. The story line with Newt had the fun and the charm which the early installment of the Harry Potter sage brought to us but it failed to bring the interest to what the B story line was giving us. For me personal, I didn’t want more early Harry Potter charm. While I understood the need to reintroduce us into this world, I just felt there were a few too many times where they were beating us over the head trying to remind us that we are in the Harry Potter world.
While on the topic of beating us over the head with Harry Potter references, there was one reference that I thought could have been utilises so much more, and that was the reference to Dumbledore as Newt’s teacher. I felt they missed an opportunity to reward those fans who have invested themselves into the Harry Potter world much more than just the films. If you had read the books and other canon material, you would know that Dumbledore was Newt’s professor, so when they spoke about the professor who spoke highly of Newt, those fans would be rewarded with an easter egg. They could of then pulled it into play when Dumbledore is introduced in the future, which at that point they could reveal that he was in fact to professor they were talking about.
When I heard that it was JK Rowling who was writing the screen play for the film, it had me excited that the creator of the world was going to have such a large role in how this would turn out. After seeing the film however, I’m not sure if giving her such a large part was the greatest idea. While I’m sure there is more than just her to hold this responsibility, while watching the films, there were so many times where the pacing felt muddled and and the overall writing was at a low standard. I also notice a few moments where you could tell that parts of the film were shoehorned in and made other scenes around it not work as well. The biggest example of this was when we first were introduced to the Obscurus in Newt’s case. Newt gives a quick explanation to Kowalski about what it is and the incredible danger it can be. Fast forward to a scene not long after where Newt’s case is taken away from him. Newt then goes on by telling the government there is nothing dangerous in there, after just telling us as the audience about the danger an Obscurus can do. In the next scene where they are all being questioned, and Graves reveals the Obscurus, Kowalski, who was the first person to be explained what they were, then asks what it was that was floating in front of them. For me, it appeared that the questioning scene was written as the original Obscurus reveal, however they needed to find a moment where they could give more detail about the creature so the scene that takes place in the case was written.
Now onto what I thought was going to be the biggest drawing factor to this film, the beasts. I’ve always loved the beasts we have been presented with in the Harry Potter world. The fact that they have their own range of animals was a factor that really separated the magical world from ours. With that, I really wanted the beasts themselves to be the main focus of the film, but unfortunately they were not. Apart from hunting down a large out break of just 3 beasts and briefly meeting a zoo of them in Newt’s case, there wasn’t much else of the plot in which the beasts were the main focus. As well as not playing as much of a big part into the story that I would have liked, they didn’t physically look as good as I would expects. For a film with this big of a budget, I would have expected the beasts to look amazing, however many of them looked as though they had a dodgey CGI job on them. That more than anything took me out of the movie because I was then spending more time thinking how horrible so of them looked rather than enjoying the wonders of the beasts they were trying to set up in front of us.
There are two major twists in this film that are revealed in the last act. One of them I was able to pick within the opening few minutes, and the other made me feel a bit cheated. The twist I was able to spot straight away was Grindelwald posing as Graves. For me, they spent to much time in the opening sequence focusing on Grindelwald and making it clear that he was a big deal in this time period and for them to cut directly to Graves after making us as the audience aware of Grindelwald presence, was just too on the nose. Also, being the Harry Potter universe, it wasn’t going to be the first time that someone had appear differently to who we thought they were.
The second reveal was that Ezra Miller’s character, Credence, was in fact the Obscurus causing destruction around the city. Like most people, I suspected that it was going to have something to do with the No-Mag family going around trying to reveal the wizards. The movie tried really hard to make the audience believed it was the girl, and for me I bought into it based off the facts we were given. The reason I feel cheated that it was in fact Credence, was because that Newt had given a life expectancy for Obscurus earlier in the film, and it was clear that Credence would have been nearly double the age for what the life expectancy was. They then went one by saying that Credence’s Obscurus must be power and therefore was able to live longer, but that claim was never confirmed or backed up in any way. The fact that it went against the the knowledge of an expect like Newt, and never completely got explained as to why it was possible, made me feel as though they needed a twist so they had to come up with something.
Although I have given this film a lot of negatives, I still did have fun watching it. For someone who is just an average movie goer and a fan of Harry Potter, this film manages to capture some of the essence we got in the previous saga while still introducing us to new content. The problems I had with the film came when I looked at it from the perspective as a film fan and a big Harry Potter fan. On those two bases, I thought that was where the film fell short for me.