Monday, April 3, 2017

Monday Musings: Fantastic Beasts Film and Screenplay Review

I finally had a chance to sit down and watch Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them this weekend (thanks to the home video release). I also read the print version of the screenplay. I'd been looking forward to this for a while now, and I was not disappointed. Here's a quick run-down of my thoughts on the story (in both formats):

Newt is not only a Hufflepuff hero, but an introvert hero. And glory be, he is still an introvert by the story's end. He has made connections, to be sure, but he is still the same lovable people-avoiding magizoologist that we met in the opening sequence.

The Obscurial mythology is intriguing and deep, and I hope it becomes a key point for the franchise as a whole rather than being a one-off idea. (I'm okay with it being utilized in as simple a way as explaining Ariana Dumbledore's tragedy, as long as it is used to good effect.)

Jacob and Queenie are wonderful, but some of their best moments are stuck in the deleted scenes.

Speaking of, the screenplay did not include any of the deleted lines and scenes. While there are some scenes that deserved to be left behind (like Jacob's fiancee breaking it off with him because he didn't get the loan), I'm curious as to how much editing the screenplay went through after filming was complete to make it so streamlined with the final film. It almost feels like the screenplay in print was stripped of anything that might not match up with the film (or might reveal information not apparent in the cast's performances). Though Newt's awkwardness around others is presented in a few places in the screenplay's descriptions, there's very little in the way of insight presented for the reader that Redmayne hasn't made clear already onscreen.

One key moment that I wanted clarity on (either from deleted scenes or the screenplay) was insight into Newt's otherwise insta-knowledge understanding of Graves' true identity at the end of the film. My only theory to explain this is that Newt came to New York with a great deal more knowledge than anyone around him guessed. His hinted connection to Dumbledore makes me think that he is part of a group that serves as a predecessor to the Order of the Phoenix, that Dumbledore has informed him about Grindelwald's movements. If this theory pans out, I imagine we'll learn in the next film that Leta Lestrange turned to Grindelwald's movement much as Snape did to Voldemort's, and this heartbreak (plain in the first film) is what allowed Newt to be drafted into Dumbledore's army. Whether my per theory is proven true or not, I hope the second film explains Newt's intuition because it does not make sense.

Despite my minor qualms (the overabundance of CGI in places, the somewhat odd pacing that feels right in the end), I heartily enjoyed the movie. I wanted to watch it again almost immediately. I didn't feel the same way about reading the screenplay. I'll keep it around for the sake of my Wizarding World collection and for future reference, but right now it ranks slightly above Cursed Child on my list of likely to be reread.

I'm looking forward to the rest of the series, although I worry about how the transition away from Newt will be handled. (The producers have talked about him not being the heart of all five films, and given the other details that imply the war against Grindelwald is the larger story of the franchise and his defeat at Dumbledore's hands is the climax, I don't see how they could sustain five movies of Newt with that.)

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