The New Cast is Wonderful
MATT: I want to carry Eddie's books home from school every day forever.
As far as I’m concerned, he’s quickly becoming my new mancrush. Sorry David Tennant.
Everything about Redmayne's performance is fantastic. From his bumbling yet affable awkwardness with fellow humans, to the affectionate way he strokes any titular fantastic beast that he comes into contact with. Don’t even get me started on his magic rhinoceros mating dance.
Redmayne’s just the tip of the iceberg. Dan Fogler is fantastic in everything he’s in, but he really couldn’t possibly be any more likable than he is in Fantastic Beasts. You really grow to care for him without much persuasion—which is no doubt thanks to JK Rowling's script as well.
One of the most refreshing things about this movie is the fact that it’s essentially Harry Potter, but with lead actors that actually have more than a single drop of charisma between them. No offense to Grint, Watson, and perpetual stoner Radcliffe, but there’s more to acting that glumly reciting book dialog.
BRANDY: You won't get much of an argument from me on Eddie Redmayne—he's freaking ADORABLE in this film. Fogler was incredible as well, but can we talk about the two main women in the film? I found Katherine Waterston's Tina completely awkward and unlikeable throughout the entire film. She just held no charm for me and I got bored every time she was onscreen.
Alison Sudol's Queenie was saccharine and seemed very two dimensional. Definitely got the whore with a heart of gold trope from Queenie. The male characters were very well written, I just wish the female characters were treated the same way. Even Samantha Morton's Mary Lou seemed like a slapdash cartoon villain, and the movie fails the Bechdel test hard. My only other real complaint about the film is...
For A Movie Called Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, There Were Not Enough Beasts
BRANDY: I mean, the film was entitled Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them. There should be a much higher beast to human ratio. The beasts that were there were super adorable (I LOVED Niffler), but a better title for the movie would have been "Witch Shaming In The 20s, Colin Farrell Looking Angry, And Also A Few Pretty Cool Creatures You Guys". I feel like not enough time was spent on the actual beasts and too much was spent on the whole witch hunting angle. I own the book copy of Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them. There are SEVERAL beasts in there. I'm just saying that I could have done with seeing a jobberknoll, maybe a golden snidget or two, and maybe an army of pogrebins.
MATT: I had to dig out my actual copy of the Fantastic Beasts textbook to check whether a jobberknoll is actually a thing.
I think it's definitely the case that the movie overpromised on beasts running amok in New York. We were sold the premise of monsters running around like nuts, and got kind of bait-and-switched for a story about Dumbledore's ex-boyfriend. This is a real shame, as I absolutely loved what beasts we did see—especially those that were in the case. The scene where we meet all the creatures is classic Rowling, with a load of incredible, beautiful creatures that are all wacky and wild.
At the end of the day, the source material here is pretty sparse. Maybe they're saving more beasts for the four sequels we'll be getting? But while we're on the subject of sequels...
Johnny Depp Almost Ruined the Movie
MATT: It's kind of impressive. He was on-screen for less than three minutes, but it was enough to leave me with a permanent bad taste in my mouth. The Scooby Doo ending works fine in Wayne's World, but here it's incredibly frustrating. Right at the last second, once the movie is concluded and Colin Farrell's Percival Graves is about to be arrested, Newt Scamander reveals that—plot twist—it was Grindelwald all along! Shock! Horror! But... why?
Why couldn't Graves have just been a Grindelwald follower? It adds nothing to the plot. This guy is basically the new Big Bad, and having seen him get defeated by Newt Scamander, he just doesn't feel like a threat any more. It'd be like if, in the first Harry Potter book, Harry beat Voldemort by getting a bucket stuck on his head.Plus, it's Johnny Depp mumbling incoherently, which is enough to put anyone off a film. Do we really need four more movies with him in?
BRANDY: UGH. I couldn't agree more. You hit the nail on the head with the Scooby Doo comment—it really felt like he was going to be carted off in the Mystery Machine. Also, Johnny Depp gave up trying to actually act about sixteen movies ago, and I'm sick of watching shades of Captain Jack Sparrow. Magical menacing Jack Sparrow with Guy Fieri hair isn't doing it for me. He's certainly no Ralph Fiennes, I'll say that much. In fact, the more creepy character for me was...
Ezra Miller is Fucking Terrifying As All Hell
BRANDY: Was anyone shocked when it turned out Ezra Miller was the Obscurial? He's damned creepy the entire movie, skulking around silently and seething with a weird energy. I had him pegged as the big ball of black anger gas from early on. The moment I saw him on screen, my brain started red flagging worse than a Tinder date with a dude whose profile pic is with a tiger. I'm glad we saw that little wisp of him get away—he's a much more interesting villain than Johnny Depp. Matt?
MATT: I am a little disappointed that Rowling didn't try harder to come up with a more shocking plot twist here—this wasn't exactly Snape Kills Dumbledore. The red herrings the movie threw around trying to convince us that the little girl was the Obscurial couldn't have been much less convincing.
That said, yes, Ezra Miller crushed it playing a creepy weirdo. This is perhaps why the big reveal felt so hollow, as you could tell from the moment he appeared that he was bubbling up with suppressed rage. And speaking of Ezra Miller...
It's Not All About Good and Evil For Once
MATT: I'm actually pretty impressed that the movie, instead of ending in a big climactic red-and-green-sparks duel, saw Newt and Tina trying to save Credence. They try bring him back from being a crazy cloud monster, rather than destroy him (even though that's the Macusa's ultimate approach). This "let's all talk about our feelings" ending felt very refreshing for the series, especially considering that Harry Potter straight up murders Professor Quirrell as an eleven year old. It was nice that this wasn't all about the forces of good and evil, and instead showed a few more shades of grey than Harry's decidedly Gryffindor VS Slytherin worldview. Does that make sense?
BRANDY: It made sense to me that this movie would be more about nuance and shades of grey than the Harry Potter series. Kids see things in a very black and white way, and Harry Potter's protagonist is a kid. I think Newt and Harry are aligned the same way- chaotic good, if you want to use D&D alignments (and I always want to use D&D alignments). The difference is, Newt is a much more gentle, kind, forgiving soul than Harry. I straight up don't think Newt sees anything in terms of good or evil. He studies beasts, and their nature is their nature, without much alignment. Plus, he's a grown ass man who knows how the world works better than Harry did, and he's a Hufflepuff, the kindest house. Speaking of houses,
Wherefore Art Thou, Ilvermorny?
BRANDY: One of the biggest things I love about Rowling's wizarding world is her lore—how thorough and well thought out it is. I loved the world building in Harry Potter, and I was really hoping for more about American wizarding lore—or at least a little more about Ilvermorny, the American wizarding school. The Ilvermorny sorting hat has been on Pottermore for a few months now, so I was really hoping we'd learn a little more about the American wizarding houses. Instead, we just got a very basic look inside the Federal Bureau Of Grumpy Wizard Cops. Matt?
MATT: Actually, I think there was too much Ilvermorny in this movie. By which I mean, the movie name-dropped the American wizard school, but failed to explore it at all. The entire scene just felt like an attempt to make Pottermore users smile, but it distracted from the plot—either we should have had a full explanation, or nothing at all. As it stands, I can understand why the movie didn't go into detail, though, as too much exposition would have slowed things down, and the main approach of the film seems to be trusting that audiences had at least a passing understanding of Potter lore.
That said, there is one thing that really bums me out about there not being more Ilvermorny in this movie...
This Movie Needs an Extended Cut
MATT: So in one of the trailers, there's a scene where Jakob and Newt are clapping, and Jakob earnestly exclaims, "I want to be a wizard". It's the moment that made me most excited for this movie, because I wanted to see whatever cool thing they were applauding. Apparently, there's a deleted scene in which Tina and Queenie perform the Ilvermorny school song, complete with magic.
I want to see this scene. I also want to see the rumored deleted scene where Credence boards a boat, sneaking off at the end of the movie. Basically, I want more Fantastic Beasts at the earliest opportunity—especially this movie, before the franchise gets trapped under the inevitably grimdark weight of Johnny Depp's war against Dumbledore.
BRANDY: 100%. GIVE ME MY BEASTS. Like, I know Johnny Depp is beastly, but he isn't fantastic. And quite frankly, he stopped being fun to watch about sixteen or so films ago.