Beware all Harry Potter fans! This isn’t just a list filled with spoilers. If you have yet to see this non-fantastical film, it will undoubtedly put a severe dampener on your initial viewing experience. This is, after all, J.K. Rowling‘s latest (and rather unexpected) plunge into the Wizarding World, away from our mundane Muggle lives.
To put it bluntly, this film is pretty bad (and we’re being kind here). The fact that Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them takes place in New York City during the Prohibition in 1926 — complete with a speakeasy, which were prevalent during those times — and still doesn’t work means there is something terribly wrong. The only reason why it has grossed $507,075,212 worldwide so far is simply because it’s associated with the famous Harry Potter name.
With all this said, here are the top 15 reasons why Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is nowhere near “fantastic”.
15. Did The Magical Folk Obliviate Themselves?
What makes a witch, a witch, and a wizard, a wizard? That’s right. Magic. And how does one normally perform magic? Through incantations. Who hasn’t imitated that widely acclaimed moment when Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) corrects Ron Weasley’s (Rupert Grint) mispronunciation of Wingardium Leviosa by saying “It’s Levi-OOO-sa, not Levio-SAAA.”
It’s moments like these that partly gave the original stories their charm (pun intended). But this batch of new characters — a British wizard named Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) who’s en route to Arizona to drop off one of his “fantastic beasts”; an American witch Porpentina “Tina” Goldstein (Katherine Waterston); and Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), a lovable Muggle (which Americans call “No-Maj”) — are either non-magic folk or have seemingly forgotten every incantation.
There are basically no spells at all. When there are, they don’t require vocal cords. The only “real” spell is Obliviate. But they only talk about it. Ironically, the one time we do see Obliviate in action, it’s dispersed through rain by an eagle. So, no, we don’t get to hear someone yell “OBLIVIATE!” like Gilderoy Lockhart (Kenneth Branagh). Did incantations not exist before the 1930s?
14. The Potter Curse: The Professionals Are, Once Again, Useless
One of the few things that could (emphasis on could) have partly saved this Hogwarts Express trainwreck of a film is if J.K. Rowling let the Aurors actually do their job.
There’s a pivotal scene where they attack the “final boss,” but like always, J.K. Rowling has them fail. Heck, Newt is more effective at fighting. And he dropped out of Hogwarts to devote his life to studying (and protecting) animals!
If these Aurors had succeeded, then they would’ve given us a gift that’s rare not just in Harry Potter films, but movies in general: the ever-evasive sad ending.
All this proves is that J.K. Rowling is still incapable of following through on presenting a ubiquitous phenomenon that makes a story more compelling. Instead, J.K. Rowling, like her characters, hides within the magical, fairyland life she created. And there she’ll stay.
13. Give Tina Her Job Back!
Tina is kind of an annoying witch. She’s kinda like Hermione in that she’s incredibly down-to-earth, except, she’s not some brilliant prodigy. Tina’s just smart. And the one thing that originally made her interesting turned out to be a hoax.
Near the beginning, Tina “arrests” Newt for being an unregistered wizard and failing to Obliviate a Muggle, er, No-Maj. But it turns out that her apprehension of Newt was more of a “citizen’s arrest.” She was stripped of her Auror title. While she was demoted for a rad reason, it’s, ironically, something we only hear about. There’s nothing worse than only getting intriguing information secondhand, especially when everything is already boring!
12. Isolated From All The “Awesome”
The fact that Tina was demoted doesn’t just make her useless. It limits our “connection” with this new Wizarding World.
With Newt being a Brit and Jacob a No-Maj (sigh), the one magical person who could “Alohomora” the locks on this world’s secrets is Tina. And yet, she has no connections because she’s not an Auror anymore, essentially isolating us from the Wizarding World.
For example, we only get a glimpse of America’s version of the Ministry of Magic — the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA) headquarters — because she no longer has valid access there. Instead, we’re thrown into a Wand Permit Office because it’s one of the few places she can go, but even that scene is fleeting. It makes this world seem smaller and not as magical.
11. Murder Is Great. Executions Are Better.
One of the few resonating moments in Fantastic Beasts occurs in what we’re calling the “Capital Punishment Room.” Before this, it was assumed that wizards and witches could only kill by magical means through ‘The Killing Curse’. The fact that it’s one of the ‘Unforgivable Curses’ led many of us to believe that “magical” slaughter was illegal on all fronts. But this scene kinda “Reducto”s that theory.
The problem, however, is that no one is actually executed (there is murder, but no executions). Having the execution almost happen makes the concept holistically innocuous. Basically, J.K. Rowling took away the scene’s “venom” and transformed it into a benign ritual… and yet another letdown.
10. Take Notes From The Prisoner of Azkaban
From the very beginning of Fantastic Beasts, we’re told of a dark wizard named Gellert Grindelwald who’s currently at large. The film feeds us this data subtly, through the very “Potterian” strategy of presenting information via newspapers, which the camera flies around, over and through nimbly as though it were riding a Nimbus 2000. In one headline, the words read “Gellert Grindelwald: Dark Wizard Strikes Again In Europe!”
But that’s the problem. They’re only words. If you remember, there was once (or should we say, there will later be) a wizard at large who gets featured in the papers… Sirius Black (Gary Oldman). While Sirius was always one step ahead of the authorities (and, in turn, the viewer), there was still much talk surrounding his latest exploits. But here, Gellert is reduced to just brief mentions.
And when Gellert does appear, it’s like, who cares? The only thing that matters is the actor who portrays him… Johnny Depp.
9. Let’s Celebrate The Psychos!
This one hogs a lot of the spotlight. One of the many things that suffers from this is the New Salem Philanthropic Society.
This society is compelling in part to its obvious connection to the Salem Witch Trials because, uh, it has “Salem” in the name and, duh, there’s the word “New” in there. These “Philanthropic” fanatics claim that witches and wizards are not only real, but are dangerous and should be stopped.
But, alas, J.K. Rowling thought it would be better to focus on random things, causing the society to appear like a listless entity and not a force to be reckoned with. Society members also suffer from this decision, especially its leader, Mary Lou Barebone (Samantha Morton). She’s one heck of a gal, too! She’s essentially the Puritan version of Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton). Imagine Harry Potter And The Order of the Phoenix with Dolores hardly shown at all. Yah. Pretty horrible. It’s just like that.
8. Just A Belt… Really?
With that last point still in mind, it’s important to realize what the name New Salem Philanthropic Society signifies: a dark time where misplaced anger and hatred, spawned from paranoia and fear of the unknown, led to people being wrongly prosecuted and sometimes brutally executed. But the worst form of punishment we get in this “second coming” of the God-fearing era is belt whipping. Come on!
And we don’t actually get to see it happen. Now, portraying certain horrors ambiguously has its merits… when done so appropriately. But for Dumbledore’s sake, we’re talking about the Salem Witch Trials! They’re not the Quakers Of America Guild where peace and love abounds. No! Put some oomph behind that name.
7. “We Don’t Need No Education” … YES YOU DO!
The society doesn’t just hate magic. They feed the starving children of New York City. Aw! However, there’s a catch. In order to get anything, the children must first take one of the society’s flyers of hateful rhetoric about magical folk. That’s cool!
But again, they’re hardly shown. Let’s see these children being subjected to this anti-magic propaganda or Mary Lou getting mad at the kids who don’t take their message seriously (maybe show these mongrels ripping the pamphlets or using them as napkins). Instead, they’re just a bunch of brats who take a random slip (which we don’t get to read) so they can eat. The children are fine. Yah, they’re starving, but they’re being taken care of. That’s no fun.
6. Dear Credence
There’s another society member who we barely get to see. And he’s just begging to be explored: Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller). What makes Credence so appealing is that he’s like the young version of Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) in Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Party II. Like Snape, Credence is portrayed as an enigmatic teen, troubled and mysterious. But the problem is that he stays mysterious. Give us a little more, please!
Heck, Credence is the one who’s always getting belt-whipped by Mary Lou. This makes him even more interesting. What’s more intriguing than an abused kid? But, alas, Credence remains untouched, leaving us with a tragically diluted character.
And this isn’t evening mentioning Credence’s rather bizarre, one-sided relationship with Percival Graves (Colin Farrell). Seeing more of that would’ve been nice.
5. Newt’s One Creature That Matters Is Just “A Story”
One of the only magical phenomenons J.K. Rowling introduces perfectly is the Obscurus.
What’s an Obscurus? If you’re a young witch or wizard, don’t suppress your magical powers. Doing so makes you susceptible to a disease called Obscurus. When afflicted, you become an Obscurial, taking the form of a wickedly powerful cloud that wreaks havoc on its surroundings. While awesome, Obscurials don’t live that long.
But this isn’t a list about what’s fantastic. What fails is that one of the few things that makes Newt’s character interesting revolves around this… and it’s just tossed aside. See, Newt has a physical manifestation of the disease, which he somehow extracted from a girl who’d died. But that’s all we know. Because that’s what we’re told. It’s a ripoff!
4. Where’s The Wise, Old Guy?
There’s one character… or a certain type of character… that’s missing (and no, it’s not Harry Potter because, let’s face it, Daniel Radcliffe never really “grew” into his character). His name is Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore (Richard Harris/Sir Michael Gambon).
There’s two reasons why a dearly dead, smart dude desperately needs to be in this film.
One: this type of character is an archetype and a classic literary figure, as said by the founder of analytical psychology, Carl Jung. These geezers are the “glue” that keeps everything together and, through their profound insightful intellect, provide a certain depth they only can create.
Two: there needs to be some sort of thread tying all of the stories together (the prequel and the original eight). To reference Star Wars, despite how much people despised the prequels, there was one major figure who never failed to appear: Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader (Jake Lloyd/Hayden Christensen/James Earl Jones). Without Anakin, there’s literally nothing holding the stories together besides the name.
That’s why a wise, old guy not only needs to be in Fantastic Beasts, but needs to be Dumbledore. Plus, Dumbledore will later play a huge role in this new rendition of the Wizarding World, as told in The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore by Rita Skeeter (Miranda Richardson). So bring him in now! Why wait?
3. Newt Needs To Learn Some Beast-Catching Spells. Pronto.
And here we begin the final dash to the top reason why this movie is not fantastic. As you’re all aware, the film is called Fantastic Beasts and How to Find Them. That’s because the main character, Newt, spends a great deal of time finding these “fantastic” beasts. It also gets its name from the textbook he’ll one day write for Hogwarts: Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them (which J.K. Rowling published in 2001).
The irony is that anyone who’s a magizoologist (like Newt) and will one day write a standard book for Hogwarts (like Newt) should know or, at least, learn some spells that can help catch them. But he doesn’t.
When it comes to catching a Erumpent (a rather disturbing looking creature that brings to mind what a rhinoceros might look like if it suffered from a massive brain tumor), Newt does have a “potion” (or just a bottle of pheromones) that attracts them. But that’s it. Because of this, the scene just drags on and on and on.
2. Reparo That Case!
This film isn’t just about how Newt finds random beasts. It’s about why he must find them. They escaped. How did they escape? Because Newt’s stupid briefcase keeps opening. Essentially, all Newt needed was Hermione to do a handy-dandy Reparo spell to save the day (and save 133 wasted minutes of our time). But she’s not born yet! Oh, the irony!
See, Newt’s briefcase basically holds a ginormous zoo where all the animals are kept. It’s like Mary Poppins’ purse, but on crack. But there’s one annoying latch that refuses to stay locked. It’s humorous at first, but ends up becoming something more akin to relentless heartburn that won’t go away. All that “clicking” means is that yet another freakin’ animal is about to get out and start running rampant in New York.
1. Kill The Beast! Kill The Beast!
And here we are. The main reason why this movie is nowhere near fantastic, where all of the many problems continually proliferate from.
It’s, ironically, the beasts. Yes, we get it. The film is called Fantastic Beasts. But it shouldn’t be. The fact that Newt hasn’t even started writing the darn “Fantastic Beasts” manuscript yet makes the name of the film (and focus) even more absurd. Yes, the beasts are a crucial plot device, seeing as they’re the reason why Newt is even in America to begin with. But that should be the only part they play: as a catalyst. It brings to mind Shakespeare’s “What is in a name?” quote. What is in a name?
Instead, J.K. Rowling made the terrible choice of having the film revolve around animals, transforming it into a painfully inexorable series of fillers about finding some critters. It’s insanely ironic. But as you probably gathered by now, this film is essentially saturated with irony.