As I’ve gotten older, I’ve been steadily less and less impressed with what has come out of J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World. Admittedly, “Cursed Child” wasn’t nearly as bad as it seemed like it was going to be–though it certainly had its faults–but I had been avoiding “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” since looking at a preview of Zina’s review and probably wouldn’t have gone had it not been with friends.
So I went, and here is a review since it’s been a while since I’ve written any in a while. Spoilers under the cut.
Here’s a shortlist of the things I had a problem with:
- The Entire Issue With Credence And His End
- Percival Graves
- This Movie Takes Place in Harlem But You Can’t Tell By Looking At It
There are other things, too: JKR freely borrows from Native American stories and folklore without bothering to actually show any Native Americans in the narrative, and I really can’t get over her total ignorance of how America–even America in the 1920’s–functions. Even at that point in American history, there were too many people on this continent (in just this country) for there to just be one wizarding school, and I take huge umbrage with how it came to be.
I’ll start from the bottom and move my way down, and then I’ll talk about the movie as if it didn’t have these issues inherent in it.
Despite taking place in Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance, there really is a startling amount of whiteness in “Fantastic Beasts.” Like, this movie is not improbably because of the monsters and magic, it’s improbable because the one scene in the movie that’s even close to showing anything from the Jazz Age takes place in a bar where the singer–who might as well be a stand-in for any of the great Jazz singers–is a goblin-like creature. From an outsider’s perspective, that seems pretty dehumanizing, especially since Jazz is really one of the first truly American art forms, and it is by its creation an inherently black art. And you’d rather have a CGI (dark-skinned) goblin singing than actual black people? That seems weird to me! And by weird, I mean that even if JKR didn’t mean for it to be racist, there’s still a little bit of that vibe coming off. No thanks. It’s not Harlem if it looks just like the London that’s in other Harry Potter movies.
I’m not the first person to point out that Percival Graves/Gellert Grindelwald kind of fits into an uncomfortable predatory stereotype. It was something, however, that stuck out in the movie and felt like we hadn’t moved anywhere past the years of queer-coded villains in Hollywood history, and it’s frustrating that this is still what’s provided.
And then there’s Credence.
I can’t justify a movie that takes an abuse victim, kills him, and then has the only person who actually speaks for him after his death one of his abusers–who is only talking in a way that might benefit himself. Credence breaks my heart. Newt tries to save him, but then is somehow unable to offer any words telling the Aurors what they’ve done wrong? Or Porpentina, who lost her job by confronting Credence’s adoptive mother, for that matter? Neither of these people could offer a few words? And then, as soon as the danger is over, it’s sort of swept under the rug. What kind of message is that?
So I can’t say that I really liked this movie.
- The beasts probably would have been a lot cooler if they had been done with practical effects a la “The Labyrinth.” The CGI gets old fast, and it doesn’t, frankly, come off as being as stunning as it might have had they thrown in a few puppets. To be honest. It probably would have felt more genuine, too.
- The ending wasn’t super necessary and I would have been happier without it.
- Despite my issues with his character, Colin Farrell was good.
- Seriously, you expect me to believe that that’s Harlem?
And if you are still super eager to see it, at least the movie ticket costs less than the screenplay, which is out right now in hard cover.
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