Newt Scamander and the Not-So-Fantastic Retcon Fanservice
This year during Black Friday, while everyone else was out (presumably) pushing and shoving each other in order to get the best ‘deals’ or what not, my wife, son and I went to see Fantastic Beasts: the Crimes of Grindlewald. And to be honest, I wish I had just stayed home instead.
To start this off, I do want to say that I am a massive, massive Harry Potter fan. I have watched the movies several times, read the books several times, I own a few trivia games for Harry Potter including a really nice Trivial Pursuit board set, Harry Potter is a constant topic of discussion in my house, I frequent the Harry Potter subreddit, and I really loved the first Fantastic Beasts film. Needless to say, I am a bit biased.
Before going into this movie, I had watched quite a few video reviews on YouTube, all non-spoiler reviews, and the one thing everyone seemed to agree on was that the plot and story was a complete mess. So I was fully prepared for a colossal disaster of a story, but I was also expecting to have some fun with it knowing that it was going to be a mess. And one thing that pretty much every review had said was that even though the story was a mess, at least the last 30 minutes was really good; I can agree with the former.
Honestly I don’t even know where to start with this film, and where it went wrong; there are just so many directions to go (much like the film itself). I also don’t really want to get too heavy into spoilers in this because this film is still rather new, but if I do feel the need to, I will use spoiler tags.
One problem with this movie is that there are at least 3 main plot lines going on at the same time that have little actual connection other than everyone ending up in the same place by the end. But in addition to the 3 main story lines, there are also several plot points throughout, most of which really don’t go anywhere and feel like a massive waste of screen time (and at two and a half hours, this film really could have used some trimming).
Another problem is that there is a ton of needless fanservice, and some massive retconning to the Harry Potter universe. And this is typically a problem with prequels in general; I don’t know why, but story tellers often feel the need to answer questions no one had, come up with bad answers to questions everyone had, and hammer in some nod to the source material in a massively heavy-handed way. This prequel may actually go further than any other prequel I have ever watched when it comes to out of place nods and bad retconning.
I now actually think that ‘midichlorians’ are a good thing comparatively.
I seriously don’t know who this movie is for, what ‘type’ of person can actually enjoy this film as is, but it certainly isn’t for me. I feel like a complete newcomer to the series is going to be completely lost, but even a massive fan will likely be lost as well, or just irritated with the various directions so many things and characters take that make no sense when compared to the source material (the Harry Potter books).
It is entirely possible that a fan of just the movies, and not the books or supplemental materials (like Pottermore and J.K. Rowling’s Twitter) may be the most likely to enjoy this film, or the overly sensitive fan who cannot stand a single blemish to their perfect franchise where even the hint that something isn’t good would be devastating to their fandom.
I don’t think I can say anything more without going into massive spoilers, and I may decide to do that in the forums at some point in the future. But I will end with a comparison that I think will sum up my feelings on this movie. I happened to see another movie last week, the Wreck It Ralph sequel, and both movies seem to be a least a big divisive amongst fans. I didn’t really care for Wreck It Ralph 2, but I can see why some would; I can totally understand how others would really enjoy that film. With Fantastic Beasts 2, I seriously cannot understand how anyone could enjoy this film. It really is, in my opinion, that bad.
Oh yeah, I just realized that I have yet to touch on the first half of the title aspect; the 'Fantastic Beasts'. Well, in my defense, the movie barely touched on that aspect of this spin off franchise, so I think I should be forgiven. So yes, the title aspect of this spin off is barely given any time, and what time it is, is extremely rushed to say the least. There really is no reason to have had 'Fantastic Beasts' in the title.
To close this out, I will go ahead and throw in a few very minor spoilers that barely even begin to explain just how messy this film was. Unfortunately, these are simply the only things I don’t think are nearly important enough to ‘ruin’ anything for anyone which is why I am including them.
There is a subplot that burns way more screen time than needed, especially in an already over-bloated run time, that has Newt being banned from traveling internationally due to his involvement in the previous film. A pretty decent amount of time is spent explaining this, as well as the consequences of this ban, yet he does eventually just travel to Paris illegally anyway. However, his ban really never impacts the story in any way, shape or form! He eventually meets up with various members of both the British and French Ministries of Magic and there are no consequences to his actions! If this entire plot point were removed from the film entirely, the only result would be a shorter film (did I mention this film is two and a half hours???).
The second involves the inclusion of a character that I think anyone paying attention to this movie at al would know by now. Nagini, Voldermort’s snake, is in this film. Except she is actually a woman with a blood curse that turns her into the snake, I think every night or something, and will eventually become a permanent transition. Now, I have many, many issues with this inclusion in the first place, the least of which is that I simply don’t like that idea. But even outside of my own personal dislike of this (and there really are other issues, I just don’t care to go too far off topic), the bottom line is that she does absolutely nothing for the plot!
Just like the previous plot point, if you removed her completely, very little (if anything) would actually change. For this film at least, her inclusion is just one of many ‘Remember THIS’ moments that quite frankly come across as pandering to the fans in my opinion.