This is another movie I watched on FandangoNow using the T-Mobile Tuesday giveaway. I mention this in case they want to sent me free stuff.
The following reviews contains
MODERATE SPOILERS. Read at your own risk.
Beastie? Is that you I spy yonder?
My wife (
nerdwife) is the actual Harry Potter nut in the family and strong-armed me into watching this film. My impression of it was..
Newt Scamander -- Before I watched this movie, I always read the name as
Newt Salamader and you did too. That twist on the name seems to have been done on purpose. Why? Dunno. Care? Can't say I do. Still, he is an okay guy.
Scamander is yet another
Doctor trope. Let me explain;
- Disheveled - check
- Socially awkward - check
- Bowtie - check
- Long scarf - also check
- Colourful Coat AND waistcoat - check and check
- Picks up random human companions - check that too
- Travel with a box THAT IS BIGGER ON THE INSIDE - flippity cha-ching check.
Wands and sonic screwdrivers, same difference.
Is this now the curse of British actors in American cinema? Or is it just that I happen to be watching certain types of movies only.
Baker man -- I can't remember his name. Kowalski maybe? He's stout, friendly and likeable. Why is he likeable you ask? Because you were told that he was by
Scamander. Literally. Before that point in the movie, he was just random-guy-being-jerked-around-by-callous-wizards. Afterwards, he's likeable-fellow-being-jerked-around-by-callous-wizards. That's some Jedi shit right there.
That goddamn bitch -- Lead(?) female character. Utterly unlikable. Immediately tries to have
Scamander arrested for her own gains. Witnesses him trying to rectify his mistakes, STILL captures him in a dirty backhanded way and turns him in again. Almost gets him killed. Gets him involved with very shady magical beast trafficker, whom he probably despises, given that he loves his beasties. He is forced to give a little creature friend who adores him to said magical beast trafficker in exchange for information, which is pretty messed up too. I don't think she ever does anything helpful in the whole story.
The ditzy mind reader -- The bitch's sister apparently. She takes a liking to
Baker Man almost immediately. Like
Baker Man, she too seems okay. There's some romance going on there in the movie, but most of it is in their heads.
Bad guy -- He's the bad guy. When he first appears, wearing the same clothes he might've worn slithering out of a nearby speakeasy, you can tell by his bad guy demeanor that he is indeed the bad guy. And I don't remember his name either.
Kreepy Kids -- Most of the characters in this movie are miserable about something. None more so than the bunch of hungry street urchins forced in a witch persecuting cult by promise of a bowl of soup. And of course, the glummest looking one, with the bowl cut and hand me down clothes that are too short for him, has the crappiest time of the lot.
Set in 1926, which is in between World War I and the Great Depression, not a great time to be alive in general. Pretty glib actually. The general theme seems be that fear, paranoia, and desperation pushes people to do horrible things to each other.
As somewhat expected, this movie isn't a docu-fiction about fantastic beasts and we only learn about where to find them though exposition. It's more like a a series of bad things happening and the protagonist sort of just being there while they happen and it doesn't really get better by the end. It might have gotten a little worse actually. Well, it still sucks for the people and the wizards but as the
nerdwife pointed out it may have raised awareness on the Magical Beasts, who for no good reason were considered something to exterminated by wizards. I mean, if wizards have been around for a few centuries and were coordinated enough to keep themselves hidden as a society and valued and collected knowledge, it would make much more sense that they would have researched the usefulness of many magical beasts already.
We also discover that in the US, the wizards have a President and a Congress. So wizard-kind just follow whatever form of government the muggles have around? The President happens to be a woman. Maybe a jab at the 2016 US presidential race? One surmises that the writers were trying to show that wizards are more progressive than rest of humans, however there's an awful lot of intolerance, prejudice and sectarianism woven into the wizard society of the time. Turns out they just execute people on a simple verbal order and nobody seems to question it. They have a pretty twisted and cruel way of executing the condemned too. First they brainwash them into the execution chair with a pleasant memory forcibly extracted, the memory gradually gets worse, turning into a nightmare while the chair is slowly lowered into a pool of acid. Yep. Acid. Living acid. To give you a horrible excruciating death while being tortured mentally too.
Anyway, the story is about
Newt Scamander's misadventures in 1926 New York City as he simply tries to make his way to Arizona to help out one of his beastie friends. However, one of his other beasties escapes from his suitcase, and he ends up breaking into a bank vault with
Baker Man. He escapes, and so does
Baker Man escape him, but suddenly a wild
goddamn bitch appears and immediately seems hell bent on getting him arrested for a promotion.
Scamander gets dragged around from one situation to another along with
Baker Man as sidekick and gets mixed up with all sorts of unsavoury types. He just seems to go along with the flow, albeit awkwardly, as he would just rather be left to his own business. He's not really the hero of the story, just passing through.
The climax of the movie, isn't really one. The helpless just get executed by trigger happy Wizard Feds. And the
bad guy can just rely on his probable horcrux(es) to carry on.
/spoilers, told ya.
Some other stuff that annoyed/amused me enough that I need to mention them:
So much of this could have been avoided with some twine. Moral of the story, string/rope/twine in never a superflous item to have in your inventory.
Non magical people are called
No-Maj in the wizarding US. While
Muggle sounds like a mildly endearing slur,
No-Maj comes off as a overly bleached politically correct term that rolls off the tongue the same way a brick might not. What I mean is that it made me cringe every time I heard it. The actors seemed to have a hard time with it too. You could sense a slight hesitation before the word or excessive enunciation.
In the early scenes of the movie, we see
Scamander interacting with muggles a lot. He seems fairly comfortable around them but does seem a bit too quick to whip out his wand. Makes you wonder if all adult wizards are like that. Pulling out their wand in public.
There are a lot of
plot feints in this movie. Not twists. Just feints. There's the classic
Suitcase Swap Kerfuffle (sort of a feint since not an alliteration) where two characters have similar looking luggage, collide somehow (kerfufflation), then walk away with each other's case in the confusion. There's a moment early in the movie where you think that just happened, but no, feint! Also,
bad guy is obviously looking for a young child for nefarious purposes, as bad guys usually do, and there just happens to be a weirdly behaving young girl who fits the bill, so you go "Aaah, yeess", but nope again, feint!
There's a pointlessly long goodbye scene where
Baker Man has his memory erased or
obliviated, in the vernacular. There's nothing surprising about that scene. It's just looooong and seems to take forever.
It would have been a much more enjoyable as a heist movie, starring
Welcome to my boudoir
If you are a Potterhead, you would likely enjoy this. But if you're not, like me, this is an okay movie about mildly depressing things.