So, the new, final trailer for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them just dropped online. I guess this is trying to be a thing now. I must say that, while I’m generally up on pop culture and have a familiarity with everything from what’s going on in the DC and Marvel cinematic universes, to Lord of the Rings to even a few other types of films, I’m not up on the Harry Potter franchise. I respect the years of work and world-building that a lot of talented people brought to that series, and I also know that it’s a generational touchstone of sorts, as many pre-Millenials grew up with those films. Not unlike the Star Wars franchise, the lingo has permeated into our popular culture, and while I find a lot of the elements I’ve seen to be a tad generic, I still would say I respect it. I should really sit down and binge watch these films one day as I’ve only seen clips. Yet what is my issue? From the clips I’ve seen, the lighting and mood is quite good, as is the acting and (for the most part) the special effects, but there is a lack of urgency in the storytelling: the films seem deprived on any real momentum (I suppose that last film might be the exception, but why is it so long as to be split into two films?) That’s just me, right now, having only seen a clip here or there, Basically, I have noticed the production design always seems top-notch, and a lot of experienced British character actors find the right notes by often dialing back their performances, but then when something unexpected or silly happens, or even just something surprising, it often feels jarring or out-of-place, at least to me. I haven’t seen a whole movie, but I would have to guess that, for example, in one of the films where people are pointing their wands to to common everyday objects and turning them into “ridiculous” things, did the entire narrative of then movie just ground to a halt? Are we attending class at Hogwarts to see this demonstration?
Again, don’t explain to me how perfect that scene actually is, or how other scenes worked perfectly. I haven’t seen them as a whole. But, getting to my point. I did watch thew Fantastic Beasts trailer that just dropped. All I knew beforehand is that this a separate little story that takes place some time before Harry Potter and stars an actor who is quite respectable actor named Eddie Redmayne (who I enjoyed from Les Miserables). The story, such as I can make out, is that this guy has come to the United States from Britain carrying a case of “magical contraband” (maybe) in that his case has a bunch of magical creatures in it that have gotten loose in New York City. Also there are hints that New York City has it’s won wizarding world that the normal people can’t see.. What might know them as “muggles” from the other films, but in America they are called “NoMag’s” or something. And that’s my problem with this entire franchise, even when author J.K Rowling is coming up with stuff that people find interesting, I find it rather generic, like that term “NoMag” (a play on “nomad”) just liked she used terms like “Dark Lord” in the old franchise because that hadn’t been done before. Anyway, I found it hard to understand any of the dialogue in the trailer that is spoken by either our hero or our villain: their voices sounded exactly the same and their voices were barely loud enough to qualify as whispers, while the sound characters (like the woman who was worried that the main character Scamander hadn’t erased a No-Mad’s memory) come across as far too eager by comparison. That was my problem with the original films too, each actors had their own style but somehow they all inhabited the same film because they are all supposed to be a part of the same story.
But the real problem is that Warners seemingly couldn’t let this one be itself. The only thing I know about the original story is that it was short. It looks like there’s a lot going on around here, and they are clearly setting up for future movies rather telling a one-and-done tale. In the 80’s movies used to come in in, tell a story, and go out, and sometimes a terrible sequel was made that no one really liked, but these days, movies are long, bloated and never complete, and it’s a guarantee that if it’s the film is a first of something and is not actually a sequel, it will feel like we’re only getting a portion of the story when we’re watching it. During the end credits of the modern blockbuster film, they should really show a camera on the studio production meetings so we can see the suits talk about the future plans for films connected to the ones we just watched so we will know what’s in store.
The other thing I noticed abotu this film (how could you not) is the bad CGI. I mean, really bad, and it’s incorporated into the live action shots with no restraint at all. What I thought might actually be a simple story of a guy from England who brings a case of monsters with him to the city (which made me think just for a moment that this franchise can be in the same universe as Pokemon, really) looks to be a huge, end of the world scenario featuring magic and destruction anywhere, and none of it felt grounded at all. And the CGI was just awful and of itself, even when all that is on screen is a closed suitcase (after the CGI has been contained within it (at time-stamp 58 seconds) the suitcase itself is clearly a CGI object.
If Harry Potter floats your boat, have fun. I’ll even give you a high-five.