Fantastic Beasts and Where It Went Off the Rails…

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*With spoilers*

Well, look at me being late to the party as usual. By now, if you’re at all interested in Crimes of Grindelwald, you’ll probably be aware that a lot of people have been saying that this movie was a mess. They say it was poorly structured and pointless- and they’re totally, unequivocally, inarguably right- buuut… I was surprised to find I still enjoyed it. Perhaps this was fuelled by my nostalgia, perhaps it was because I had such low expectations going in- but honestly I think this film does have a fair number of qualities to make the viewing experience a good time:

Compelling characters- check tick box

Stunning visuals- check tick box

Great story- ehh not so much… cross box clipart

I will freely admit that there were interesting parts to the story to keep me engaged- mostly stemming from the fact that the characters work well. This is particularly true of Leta Lestrange and Newt Scamander, who I love, and who demonstrate that not all heroes have to be sword-wielding Gryffindors (though a little more Ravenclaw love in these movies wouldn’t go amiss 😉). I also particularly liked the way Crimes of Grindelwald examined Leta’s view of herself as evil. And as someone that’s spent a long time asking for subtler villains, I can say I sort of got my wish… but more on that in a second. Cos before I go ahead and say anything else, I want to give this movie 3/5 bananas:

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are we the baddies nazisNow you have proof I didn’t hate this movie- let’s go ahead and see why it’s such a monstrous muddle. We can start where I left off: with the baddies. Once again, Rowling has embraced the Nazi metaphor- because no one else in history was evil like the Nazis. While the imagery is strong, I do think Rowling’s view of Nazis comes across as a little confused. There’s supposed to be this scary implication that Grindelwald’s followers hid behind “we’re better than that” slogans and were allegedly claiming to be pro-freedom. Problem is, Nazis were openly for state control and beating people up for being on the wrong side before they got into power. They also weren’t hiding their genocidal tendencies as people like to believe. So, no, people saying they’re pro-freedom is not code for Nazism and does not have the sinister undertones this implies. And while I’ve been begging for better villains, there is such a thing as being too subtle.

This is only a minor nitpicky issue though, particularly when taken with the fact that I do think the line “the greater good” is sufficiently shiver-inducing. What will be more troubling to general movie-goers is the way mystery and plot twists are handled. Holding this up against HP’s/Agatha Christie’s standard, it falls short. Largely because in those mysteries, the clues are such that everything can be worked out, even if it’s challenging to do so. Take the Sirius Black Easter eggs from chapter 1 of the Philosopher Stone. You get so many hints early in the series that tell you *exactly* where it’s going. It doesn’t mean you can work it out (like RAB) but that when it all comes together you have that OHHH moment (like Snape’s story). Here, the twists feel cheap, because there’s no way of knowing where it’s going before you get there. For instance, this plot point:

Leta’s brother is dead, we’re told he’s dead, except maybe he’s Credence… oh no way he’s definitely dead because Leta switched him with another random boy on the boat.

dumbledore confused.gifNothing has actually changed in terms of the original information and we’ve got no clues as to who Credence is from that snippet and the audience *shrugs its shoulders*. When it is revealed that Credence is Aurelius Dumbledore, it feels even lousier. There are only two clues for this- that aren’t really clues at all: the talk of a phoenix earlier in the movie (which feels more like a movie tie-in) and Dumbledore talking about Credence needing a sibling (which only stands to reinforce the Credence Lestrange theory at that stage). These really just point to it not being a Grindelwald lie, rather than feeling like earned hints at a larger plot. More importantly, in my view, it contradicts existing canon- you know, where Dumby allegedly told Harry everything?! If this whole brother thing was so integral to that story, how come he never came up?! And couldn’t he have had a joke at Rita Skeeter’s expense, something along the lines of “that incompetent bint didn’t even know about my secret brother!” Ultimately, this feels like an inferior way to connect the two series and is something I will never be fully on board with. It’s such a curveball that I’ve found myself embracing ridiculous theories- not only to make sense of it but also cos these theories would at least make for an entertainingly bonkers story.

mcgonagall confusedSpeaking of ridiculous things that can only be made sense of with bad theories- WHAT THE HELL IS MCGONAGALL DOING IN THIS MOVIE!?!? And don’t try to say this is possible when a) it contradicts the fact that she says *in the books* she’s been teaching at Hogwarts 39 years. Now it doesn’t take a genius to calculate that HP was written in the 90s and that this is the 20s- so THIS DOESN’T ADD UP- GAH!) and b) they deliberately went to lengths to remove her age on Pottermore to cover up this error. The only theory that can make sense of this blunder is time turners- and we all know how well that works in HP fanfic *coughs* Cursed Child *coughs cough*. My personal opinion is that this is lazy retconning from Rowling- ie “McGonagall was over a hundred all along”. Naturally my response is ughhhh. This, together with making Dumbledore teach defence against the dark arts, is just a lazy addition that didn’t need to be there. Especially since it’s designed to make fans all fuzzy and warm inside… but will likely only succeed in driving us to *oblivate* this detail from our too-well-versed in Potterlore memories.

And, yes, this may seem petty, but the reason this is so frustrating is cos for the most part this film seems designed just for real fans. My sister didn’t know what was going on half the time and my mum gave up. I had to keep filling them in. And that’s with the confusion caused by *all of the above*. What’s ridiculous is that some of the deleted scenes can make sense of the story- eg how Credence came back, what Credence’s relationship with Nagini was etc. This is most likely due to the modern trend of trying to force movies to fit run time- regardless of content- and it’s such a huge mistake when it comes at the cost of coherent storytelling. The original opening was vital information- DON’T CUT IT! (cut one of the less important, rambly chase scenes or something)

hermione bitch pleasePossibly *the worst* new addition, however, is the magical gizmo that means Dumby and Grindlewald can’t fight. The original version- and what JK implied- was that Dumbledore didn’t want to fight because he didn’t want to find out who killed Ariana. Plus had some conflicted feelings about it cos he used to be “friends” with Grindelwald. While this change can make sense of how Ariana was killed by accident, this doesn’t make up for the fact that this ruins a meaningful, moving element of the original series. Really, it doesn’t make sense to me to trample on what already existed in order to make this sub-par movie.

Forgive me if this review’s been all over the place- the truth is it’s hard to discuss a sloppy structure in a linear fashion. I hope there’s more rising action in this post than there was in the movie 😉 Again, I’d like to reiterate I had fun watching this, but that doesn’t mean I’m oblivious to its faults. And honestly it wouldn’t surprise me if this series is dead in the water.

So- dare I ask- what did you think of this film? Do you agree with any of my points or am I being a bit harsh? Let me know in the comments!

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What I have been watching lately – #movie edition

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Hello all! Hope you’re having a lovely Sunday! Since we’re coming up to the end of the year, I’m in a wrap-everything-up kind of mood and thought it would be fun to share some of the awesome (and less-than-awesome) movies I’ve seen over the past few months. This is by no means a comprehensive list- just the ones that stood out to me for some reason or other. And of course, this list will be accompanied by plenty of monkey drama 😉 Let’s jump to it!

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before– I enjoyed every second of this! I adored the series, so I was a tad nervous… but all those fears were allayed because this completely brought the book to life! I particularly liked how it took the characters and made them real, very much capturing their distinctive personalities. And Lara Jean was so Lara Jean- she was relatable and dorky and ahhh practically perfect in every way!!! So yup- one happy monkey here!!

5/5 bananas

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi– I finally watched the new Star Wars- and wish I could unwatch it. Look, I’m not trying to start arguments, and if you liked it, I’m glad you got more out of it than I did. Frankly though, if a movie bores me so much that I can leave to do chores in the middle (and yes, this is frequently my barometer for a bad movie) then I’m going to hate it. I get that the visuals are good- however that’s not why I watch movies. I’m here for the story and this did. not. deliver in that department. For all the obvious flaws- the campy scene where Leah flies through space, Rey the ULTIMATE Mary Sue, Holdo’s resting bitch face, the lame villains, the bad jokes etc- the most unforgivable thing was that it took a story about hope and made it nihilistic- that’s quite the feat! And I know this film has been analysed to death by now, so I’m sure I don’t need to get into everything, but “defying expectations” isn’t automatically a good thing. While I like unexpected twists and turns, they need to make sense in the grand scheme of things, deliver emotional punches and make me care about the characters- this did none of those things. It felt like *surprises* for surprises’ sake- which is not a good storytelling tactic. The only way this defied my expectations was that I thought it was going to be a good movie and it wasn’t. Also congrats for making the prequels look good I guess. This gets a banana peel from me:

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them– okay, so here’s another one I finally caved and watched… and that was surprisingly a good thing. While I’ve always been on the fence about Harry Potter spinoffs, this ended up delivering on a lot of fronts: the characters were stellar, there were cute animals (employed in a way that actually affected the plot- *evil eyes at Last Jedi*), the visuals were stunning and the differences between Britain and America were explored (like the term no maj- which on the surface is simpler- but also sounds less offensive). Plus there was some hidden depth in the symbolism of obscuras- drawing on how trauma can breed tragedy. I particularly liked the portrayal of Scamander by Redmayne (quickly making this a new fave HP character). And *spoilers* Grindlewald as a villain was subtly portrayed (I’m decidedly less keen on the actor that’s taken over). Overall, this worked for me!

4/5 bananas

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The Death of Stalin– this captured the sheer *craziness* of the situation. Plus, for a movie that’s historically accurate (if you want to see just how much you can watch this great video essay) and very dark, it was ridiculously funny. I was laughing throughout. Though the fact that this Kafkaesque/1984 setting was *real* always sat disturbingly in my mind. And while I reckon history buffs will get a kick out of it, I do recommend this film for everyone really.

4/5 bananas

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The Theory of Everything– the most obvious thing I can think to say about this was that Redmayne was *definitely* an Oscar-worthy performance. It was also a beautifully shot movie, though a little on the slow side. BUT it was very life affirming- really embodying Hawkins’ famous quote: “As long as there is life, there is hope”. It was amazing to see what he achieved in film form. I also felt like it could be seen as a counter to the Me Before You narrative argument (not to criticise the author, for whom it was an exercise in empathy). The only thing was I didn’t buy the romance as much as I wanted to. And, while I’m glad I watched it, it didn’t blow me away. Incidentally, I’ve been listening to brief history of time- which I won’t be reviewing  cos WHODOYOUTHINKIAMLOLIREADBOOKSIDON’TDOPHYSICS (seriously I can’t help you with black holes and the like)- but I will say it’s very interesting.

3½/5 bananas

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The Shooting Party– this was rather propagandistic. At the risk of alienating all zero of my posh fans, I don’t actually think I need any convincing not to go shootin’ animals. That said, I don’t think that if I was unclear on that this would change my mind- because it’s not a convincing argument to have people walking round moralising. There’s literally no real characters in this- merely lifeless husks that act as mouthpieces for an agenda. Regardless of whether I agree with said agenda, it simply doesn’t make for an entertaining film. There’s a lot of pointless, pretentious conversations and not nearly enough drama. All this ended up being was an opinion masquerading as art.

2/5 bananas

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The Birds– now this is more like it! It may start out witty and humorous but the tone steadily shifts. All this builds up the tense and magnetic atmosphere. By the end of the movie, all the little sounds in my flat were making me jump. I didn’t even realise how much it affected me until I saw a load of pigeons the next day and thought: “what are they up to?” Honestly, I don’t think I’ll ever look at birds again in quite the same way. Super clever and wonderfully crafted- this is a classic for a reason! Even scaredy cats like me can appreciate it!

5/5 bananas

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Okay- so some potentially *explosive* opinions there and the question of the day is: do you agree or disagree with me on any of these? What do you think of these movies? And have you watched anything that stood out to you lately? Let me know in the comments!