therealsnape: (snape default)
[personal profile] therealsnape
This afternoon I've been to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Here's the short version:

Fantastic Beasts: very well done. They knew where to find them and how to bring them alive.

Plot: Alas, they were totally unable find one.

All in all, despite my enthusiasm after seeing the trailer and my real eagerness to see the film, I thought it a waste of time.

It must be said, though, that I really don't like action movies. And this is an action movie: good guys hitting bad guys and bad guys hitting good guys and a Force of Evil that hits just about everyone. I find that sort of thing seriously boring, and what I loved about the Potter books was that they were so much more than that. And the part of it that was action was about a quest. To me, that's something entirely different.

So if you enjoy action movies, you may well like this one. The visuals are stunning.



What I liked: all the visual aspects. They are really well done.

The beasts. They are beautifully-executed and come in an interesting variety. Some are cute, like the bowtruckle, some are impressive, some are downright hilarious. The scenes with the beasts are by far the best part.

The costumes are well-done too. I especially liked those in the magical flapper-nightclub. And need I say I loved the pink coat?

I thoroughly enjoyed the dinner party scene in the girls' house. The apartment was beautifully done, cozy but in line with the girls' position in life, and it was great fun to see how magical people arrange their parties and how the food is cooked. This is truly a scene to remember and to use as visuals when writing fanfic, and it's all the more interesting because the technicalities of house-keeping are an adult theme, and as Harry wouldn't notice them, they're not in the books. But they're fascinating.

I also admired the scene in which Tina is sentenced to death. There's a Ministry employee in that scene, a woman of colour, who does a brilliant acting job. When you watch the scene, you like her because she's so kind and humane - if you were in hospital, you'd be glad to have such a warm, caring nurse. Only, later, when you reconsider the film, you realise she does what the Ministry tells her, i.e. kills people, without a scruple. And she probably goes home and feels good about the caring way in which she does it. Her neighbours would call her a lovely woman, and if they only see the caring side, they cannot be blamed for doing so. She probably is a lovely neighbour. Seriously scary, that scene, all the more because it does take time to figure it out.

And perhaps even more scary because I didn't feel any critical distance in the story line. The bit about 'how caring is this woman really?', 'what happens here?', 'is a government that orders this even remotely OK?' - it's hardly there. It's like Gilderoy - there, too, I felt that the aspect of a man who destroys other people's minds, the truly psychopathic point of view behind that, got seriously overlooked. But the books were aimed at a children, and perhaps that age group shouldn't contemplate the full horror of such a deed. These movies aim at a more adult group.

Also, what happened to Aveda Kedavra? That's as good a way to execute the death penalty as any. Well, I know what happened: That spell acts at once; there is no time for a lengthy scene full of life-passing-before-us. No time for maidens rescued by heroes either. But in that case: reconsider your plot. Write better.

And Carmen Ejogo, who plays the Wizarding President, is a truly beautiful woman.

What I didn't like: the rest.

The story line is more than flimsy. It's practically non-existant. Basically, Newt goes to New York. (Lovely visuals of 1920's NYC)
He has this suitcase full of Fantastic Beasts. He's not very good at keeping them in the suitcase.

So: mayhem in bank.

In the bank, he encounters the thoroughly lovable Jacob Kowalski, baker-to-be, who carries a similar but non-magical suitcase. And yes, the cases get mixed up. This is a plotline so boring one can only yawn through it.

Then there's this kick-ass girl. She's an Auror (but one who just lost her job for saying unpalatable truths) and she is allowed to be a proper little second-fiddle Hermione alongside Newt. The actress makes of it what she can, and part of the problem is that it's only about Newt's beasts, and he is the expert on those. But this is a young woman who could and should have agency at some point in the story. And she doesn't.

Then there's a Minister of Magic (or President, as they call them in the USA) who is both a woman and a person of colour. She's also incompetent (sending people away when they want to tell you something and then complain they didn't tell it is not a good plan) and is as decent a ruler as Carroll's Queen of Hearts. Moreover, her Ministry (and ultimately its President) is very casual about sentencing people to death.

In fact, the whole depiction of American wizard society, with its severely restrictive rules like an absolute ban on marrying or even befriending a Nomaj, is a typical case of America-bashing.

And then we get to see the contents of Newt's suitcase, and that's another fantastic visual. Truly. It's glorious.

But.

Either it is possible that Newt was capable of creating this suitcase (and while the Little Beaded Bag contained full bookshelves, this piece of luggage contains the world, more or less. A huge Zoo, with more outdoor space, from desert to Antarctica, than any Zoo ever had).

And if he can do that, he can also keep the damn thing shut and make sure his creatures don't go running all over the place.

Or he can't keep his blooming luggage shut, in which case the notion that he could create, own, or manage this separate universe is ridiculous. So while you look at the stunning visuals, there's a little voice that says, "This is nonsense. There's no way our likeable little blunderer manages this."

And then there are scenes of destruction and more scenes of destruction and a base traitor. It's clear from scene one he's the base traitor.

And there's another woman in a position of power, and she is horrible, too. A sort of Muggle Umbridge. And, you know, I'd really like to see a woman in a position of power who does an excellent job.

And then NYC gets torn down and reconstructed. Reparo must be a seriously handy little spell to know. And the whole city gets Obliviated. Not literally a Deus ex machina, but the quality of Obliviation is not strained, it droppeth like the gentle rain from heavens, and it felt like the worst of Dei to me.

But in the end Jacob gets his bakery (you can see that one coming, too) and lo and behold: it's in Orchard Street. And I have lovely memories of Orchard Street. So it ended on a pleasant note.
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