Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016) Review From Korea


“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” (2016) Review

How to structure a story when you only really have fragments of scattered, random but interesting thoughts and not much of anything else like a plot? What kind of movie would you be able to make? The new movie in the “Harry Potter” universe, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” (2016) would be what you get.


Introduction
Hello, this is professor AKIA. These are some of my thoughts about the new “Harry Potter” movie. Yes, it is a “Harry Potter” movie but without Harry, Hermione, or even Ron. I’m not much of a fan of Ron but still…In fact, can you it a “Young adult(YA)” movie? This movie doesn’t even have a popular literary source material it is based on. There are no characters below the age of 15 or so that are important to the story. All of the characters are adults. Woops, is this a spoiler? There may be some spoilers albeit slight. Also the tone of the plot can viewed as darker - more mature than - your normal “YA” movie when the plot actually bothers to kick in.

“Pikachu! Where are you?”
When we talk about the plot of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” (2016), it not a leap to assume that the movie is not based on your typical “fictional” works. Its source material is a reference book J. K. Rowling published in 2001 to exploit the fan base to rake in more dollars or pounds if you are from the UK. 70% of this movie is essentially random filler material surrounding the retrieval of magical beasts the lead character – an idiot but I’ll talk about him later –misplaced. Think of editing together a few 15 minute episodes of “Pokémon” (TV Series) – you know “catch them all” – around a very loose plot. The quality of plot is no better than what you would find in a single episode of “Pokémon” (TV Series) and it’s really only there to be bookends to an anthology of random adventure set pieces. That is “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” (2016).  

The Plot
While not seen in great regard, this approach to story structure is not uncommon. If you are okay with this story structure and love the “Harry Potter” world, you’ll enjoy “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” (2016) pretty much. If not, … Let’s just say this movie will be pretty divisive among the movie going audience. The core of the movie - random scenes of imaginative magical animals wreaking havoc while being adorable and magical - have much to offer. However, for audiences who are not-hard core “Potter” fans, this charm could wear off fast. It doesn’t help the plot is flimsy, rushed, and refuses to progress until the 3rd act and concludes in a rather odd and off putting manner. In addition, the protagonist “Newt Scamander” basically has not impact on the plot until he is shoehorned into the mix during the third act when the plot suddenly kicks into gear. All this can nag on your subconscious. I’m one of the latter. However, this alone shouldn’t mean I wouldn’t like this movie. I’ve seen many movies – many far worse in production quality – of this ilk. I enjoyed many of them as simple enjoyment. So, why does this movie bug me more than I expected?  

The Adventure
Many adventure movies’ plots are basically an excuse to string along events while moving from A to B. This doesn’t mean they have to be bad. In fact, there are many great ones made during the heydays of 80s and 90s. “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” (2016) is an adventure movie albeit leaning more towards “Kid” side of the genre. What great “Kid” adventure movies have in common is that they added something extra to the mix by making their characters go through a journey personal development. They are “coming of age” movies essentially albeit lite ones. This is where “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” (2016) encounters problems as not only are characters not interesting but  the characters’ story arcs are weak. Let’s get a closer look into the characters.

Superman
The movie basically has a two sets of couples that really matter in the cast: the protagonist and his love interest, his side kick and his love interest. Newt Scamander – the protagonist – is basically a mix of the worst elements of “Frodo Baggins” (theLord of the rings” movies) and Matt Smith’s version of the Doctor in “Doctor Who.” In fact, Newt Scamander even has his own version of the Tardis – a time machine that is bigger inside than seen from its exterior. It is a “Doctor Who” inside joke for those who have no idea what I’m talking about. In this movie, we have an old fashion wooden suitcase with a life size zoo inside of it. And it doesn’t time travel. You can lug it around fully stocked with animals and people! You get the idea. What is more British than combining its two major pop culture icons?

That is a rhetorical question. In any case, the resulting character of Newt Scamander comes off as just a “socially awkward animal preservationist” nut job who is just bad at his job. 70% of shenanigans, property damage, personal injuries – some deaths? – in this movie is the result of his carelessness. And he doesn’t care and never bothers to learn to care about the consequences of his actions. I know that most of this chaos was inflicted on the “No-maj” – the American version of the Muggle or non-magic folk – but it is still a thing. The movie doesn’t introduce the character well and it takes a long time to warm up to him but it is already too late. He is neither likable nor memorable.

In terms of his lady friend, there is nothing of interesting to mention other than the fact that the actress’ New York accent noticeably bad. Just saying. I’m not that sensitive to accents in movies but hers was very noticeable. In summary, even though the protagonist is set up to drive the story and the audience’s interest, he fails to do it. Now the supporting couple!

Jimmy Olsen
The side kick - No-maj - Jacob is the “audience insert” character. He performs the function the companions do in “Doctor Who” which is to represent the audience’s experiences when they encounter the weird and fantastical. You could call it the “Superman and Jimmy Olsen” set up where Superman drives the story as the protagonist and Jimmy Olsen is a supporting character. In the “Harry potter” movies proper, the character of “Harry” was both the protagonist and “audience insert” character. It is the “Luke Skywalker” setup. The effect of using this setup is that the protagonist is, in most cases, the least interesting character in the mix. Hermione and even Ron tended to outshine Harry potter throughout the series. “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” (2016) goes with the “Superman and Jimmy Olsen” set up and fails to properly execute it.

Newt Scamander as a lackluster character cannot anchor the audience’s interest. In contrast, Jacob is the best character in the movie. This is an inverse of the proper implantation of the “Superman and Jimmy Olsen” set up. The sidekick should not over shine the protagonist! It would have been much better if Jacob was the protagonist as he actually has somewhat of the well-defined character arc compared to the rest of the cast. The result of this is that the story just seems to float without a focus. You move from one scene to another and you may get some joy out of what you see from time to time. However, you do not get emotionally attached to neither character nor story.

The Villain
Before, the conclusion I would have to rant about Colin Farrell. Why can this guy not get a break? He is a decent actor who get more out of role than put on paper but he is never really given good material. Throughout most of this movie, Colin Farrell is not given much to do until the climax of the movie. Then, Johnny Depp! I’m starting to really dislike his silly stuff. That’s the end of my rant. As with its plot, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” (2016) does not have much for the villain to do.

Conclusion
As I mentioned before, the enjoyment one will get out of “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” (2016) depends on how much you enjoy the world of “Harry Potter.” And by this, I mean the magical animal part or Fantastic Beasts part of the world. This movie does not do much to enrich the culture or society that is displayed in the franchise. Those are much weaker than the beasts. In fact, let’s just have the beasts and not bother with actually having a plot! If you are a hard fan of the “Harry Potter” franchise, you will love it. If you are more of a casual fan, you’ll not have a totally horrible time. At the end of the day, there is nothing terrible about “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” (2016). There are lackluster parts to it but nothing is terrible.


What about me? I’m the latter person. Not a serious fan and something about the world rubs me the wrong way but that is for another post which may be called the “Muggle revolution!” “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” (2016) is just a decent adventure movie that leans sometimes to the “Kid” side of the audience. While there is nothing too wrong about it, there is nothing more to it. The movie is missing that something extra that makes this type of movie great. It is just an expensive looking okay movie.


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