Not a secret: I’m a Harry Potter fan. I read the new stuff as it comes out, including the Fantastic Beasts series, which, if you don’t know, is a five-book series of screen plays set in the Harry Potter world but seventy years before the stories we are familiar with. Which makes Dumbledore really old. I was not real fast on reading number two, The Crimes of Grindelwald, because the series is taking a looooong time to come out and also because it has not had an enthusiastic reception. Especially the movies, which is the point of them.
Somewhere someone has probably wheedled out of J. K. Rowling why she decided to go straight to screenplay with the series instead of writing a more conventional book series. Honestly, I think writing the books would have been way, way better for both the series’ success and also for her readers. Normally, I don’t mind reading plays, though, and there is something about the conciseness, the sparseness, even the appeal to the sense of sight and even sassiness of the medium. Which is to say, I did enjoy reading The Crimes of Grindelwald, just as I enjoyed reading Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I don’t know as I have anything new to add to what I already said about the first book, though. It would be best to review this as a series, and yet I can’t because of aforementioned length of time taken to release them.
So to recap from the last review: the series issues are the age of the characters and the setting not being in England, distancing it from the magic of the original Harry Potter in some way. And I am still wondering how long Rowling can support this five-part endeavor. With her resources? Probably for the long haul, but now with the loss of a main actor (Grindelwald), the series continues to take hard knock after hard knock. What I like about the screenplays are Rowling at her best: a very deft creation of interesting characters, dramatic and complex plot, and, obvi, world building with a seemingly inexhaustible depth of fantastic ideas. The book itself is, again, beautiful and—as screenplays are—full of wasted space. But besides word-nerds like me, the moral here is that reading is really not necessary for Fantastic Beasts, nor was it intended to be. Too bad. I continue to be awed at Rowling’s story telling and even her character development in such a limited time, wondering if the second book has gotten a little trite and reused too many old tricks and references, while the rest of the world waits—without bated breath—for numero tres and some sort of CG-makeup-fusion of Johnny Depp’s ghost with some similar actor.
If you want to read the review of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, click HERE.
Because I am such a Potter fan, I own both of the first two movies (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald), which I bought sight unseen when they released. I have now watched them both (this week). They’re certainly not bad, though they have not done very well with critics or audiences. Visually, pretty stunning. Interesting. Full of twists and turns and Potter Easter eggs. They like to leave you hanging, and I think a lot really depends on how they wrap up in the end and how attached we get to the characters over the length of the franchise. What I’m saying is that they are decent to watch, for sure, but the verdict is still out on what they will be as a whole. There’s nothing super-new here, and like I’ve said before, it lacks some of the charm that comes from the English boarding school, but I do want to know more and my eyes have been treated to some CG and fantasy candy.