Fantastic Beasts: The Dependence on Potter

Never has a film so misjudged it’s sense of importance.

You can see why they thought these movies would be a good idea; a new series of stories set in the same world as Harry Potter, featuring a few of the professors and academics from those books/films in their younger years. Sure, Newt Scamander, who just about remains the protagonist of these new films, barely got a mention in the original books and movies, but Albus Dumbledore, who is a big part of all of this now, is one of children’s literature’s most loved elder statesmen.

Sadly over three films they have now squandered any benefit that had from this association with laboured story telling and lacklustre characterisation. Jude Law’s Dumbledore only joined in the last movie and already you get the impression during this one that the actor doesn’t seem entirely sure he wants to be there. Katherine Waterston, who was probably the best thing about the other films, has clearly decided she doesn’t.

Still though this most movie is filled with moments that are obviously meant to carry great significance yet fall flat. To be honest, it is a little embarrassing to watch. There is a scene at the end of this one that the film makers clearly believe is a reunion the audience have been desperately waiting for but what the audience have been desperately waiting for is this slow and uninspiring movie to just end, and it’s just an annoyance. We have come long way, and very quickly, from the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 where the extended prologue was well earned. They got away with it then because we had followed these massively endearing kids through some magnificent and genuinely moving escapades, we had seen them grow up facing adventure and heartache and we in turn had grown to love them. It is a big mistake to think that the feeling now extends to this.

I don’t want to criticise the performances of anyone involved, Eddie Redmayne is committed to the lead character and everyone around him is doing good work. There are some nice story ideas there too but they are buried beneath a bizarre narrative involving fascism and psychic antelopes; two aspects which do not gel. (I bet they wish they’d never started with the fantastic beasts thing but they obviously feel they are now tied to it. This being the case every mission has to shoehorn some key magical mammal in somewhere.)

The pacing is odd in these films too, they just seem to be unable to generate any momentum and, despite the odd flurry of well orchestrated action, this one seemed to have the least amount of energy of any of them. This is not a view shared by the all the critics but as each of these films brings the hope that the next one will be better, I think they are just getting worse.

This series needs to do something epic if it is to continue. They tried this at the end of the last film by revealing how Ezra Miller’s Credence was secretly related to the Dumbledore family but despite the title of this one, the potential of this is pretty quickly thrown away. (Miller’s off set antics are such that they may have to jettison him soon, like they did with Johnny Depp, and it is interesting to see how he is already being written out just in case.) What they need to do now is come up with something that will keep the declining audience on board that is just to do with these films and these characters because they have tried riding on Harry Potter’s cloaktails and it’s not working.

I only hope they themselves realise this because they don’t seem to have done so yet.

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The Ripley Factor:

The feminist successes of the two previous films almost entirely hung on Katherine Waterston’s Porpentina ‘Tina’ Goldstein (there’s a quick lesson in how to take the most witchy sounding name possible and quickly turn it into the least witchy sounding name possible). There are other strong females here but they are all fairly underwritten and by reducing Tina’s role they’ve lost more than their best character.

They need better females in the story but please, please don’t let them introduce Hermione’s grandmother or anything like that.

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Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is available for home rental now.

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