Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is fine. It's a very pretty movie with a few really good performances (specifically Dan Fogler and Colin Farrell). Unfortunately, the plot requires almost everyone involved to be unforgivably stupid or else the whole story would fall apart. And the stupidest person by far is the hero, Newt Scamander.
Although my colleague Germain gave Fantastic Beasts a glowing review, as our resident obsessive Harry Potter fan, I must semi-respectfully disagree. And here's why.
OK, first of all, Newt arrives in America by boat. He's a wizard, why is he travelling anywhere by boat? I know it's possible to apparate in 1926 because the characters do it all the time. And if not Apparition, if America was just too far away, what about a portkey? Broom? Flying carpet? Why is he coming to America via a boat and passing through regular customs? Shouldn't there be a magical customs, you know, since a lot of this movie is about how American wizards are all about keeping humans and magic as far apart as possible?
While standing in line at customs — again, regular old non-magical customs — one of the locks on Newt's suitcase springs open. Newt's suitcase is filled with magical creatures. Maybe Newt should think about getting that lock fixed. At the end of the movie, we see that suitcase tied shut with rope. If rope was all it took to fix this thing, maybe he should have put a rope on it from the very beginning. That would be the smart thing to do but Newt is incredibly stupid.
As happens when the magical suitcase you have filled with magical creatures has a broken lock, Newt manages to lose a couple of his beasts. On the hunt for one, he breaks into the vault of a bank. Does he stop to think that maybe the nonmagical authorities would not take lightly to that? No, he does not. He also magically pulls a No-Maj (the American word for Muggle) to him, fails to wipe his memory and then lets the No-Maj take off with his case. BRILLIANT.
Sure, just pull out your wand and do this to a dude you don't know in public, Newt. Good idea. (Gif from Fantastic Beasts, WB)
Newt uses his magic everywhere, indiscriminately. I know part of the point of this movie is how repressed and repressive America is, but still. It's not like Wizarding Britain doesn't have rules against exposing magic to Muggles — how is Newt so bad at hiding?
Throughout this whole movie, Newt insists at every possible turn that nothing in his case is dangerous while simultaneously proving that to be a lie. Something bites the No-Maj, Jacob, and it causes him to sweat and Newt to say that one of the symptoms is flames shooting out your arse. Also, one of his creatures destroys a house. Another destroys the Central Park zoo. At one point, he admonishes one of the beasts for attempting to eat an unconscious person's brains. Nope, nothing dangerous in that case at all!
Speaking of the zoo incident, Newt attempts to recapture one of his creatures by dusting himself in musk and doing a mating dance. Meanwhile, he leaves the open bottle of musk in the hands of Jacob who, predictably, drops it and covers himself with the stuff. So the giant rhino creature chases Jacob and tries to mate him, nearly killing him. But again, none of Newt's creatures are dangerous!
Pictured: A not dangerous beast (image: WB)
(OK, to be fair, that was less the creature and more Newt not taking back the bottle and closing it. Because Newt is the dumbest person in the history of the wizarding world.)
Newt also just casually strolled into America without bothering to learn a single thing about the customs, language or laws of the place. Which, look, I know a lot of tourists don't do a ton of research, but Newt came to America to release a giant bird into the sky. He maybe should have checked to see if, like, there was some special procedure for that in the country. Or at least checked on the aforementioned laws about when and where to use magic.
At the end of the movie, a completely different set of screw-ups leads to a big black cloud ripping through New York City and a very obvious exposure of magic. Newt saves the day by releasing Frank, the aforementioned giant bird, who creates a giant storm and fills it with a venom that wipes memories away.
A venom, by the way, that hasn't really been tested by anyone but Newt. Forgive me for not trusting Newt's judgement at this point in the movie. Plus, uh, with this giant storm filled with amnesia venom and raining down on New York, he seems to have contaminated all of New York's water supply. And I mean for a while — that water is going to get stored, drunk (we even see someone drinking from a sink and forgetting), used to water plants, put in food and basically stay generally stay in circulation forever. In diminishing amounts, sure, but Newt never checked on the long-term effects of this crap. Sounds safe!
Newt is such a moron throughout this whole movie. The fantastic beasts? He let them out. Where to find them? Hell if Newt knows!
Fantastic Beasts is a movie where apparently random people can just barge into meetings the President of the Magical Congress of the United States is having with all the other magical leaders in the world and there's no security to stop them. No one figures out that the head of law enforcement has been replaced with the most wanted criminal in the wizarding world. (Here's another question, how did that work exactly? Because if it's Polyjuice, we never see Grindelwald drinking it. I really wish it was possession or something permanent because Colin Farrell is great in this role. He's so manipulatively charming, I could easily understand how he could sway Dumbledore. And they're replacing him with Johnny Depp, for crying out loud.) The supposedly brilliant Grindelwald has the object of his desire in front of him many many times and somehow never sees it, a New York Senator calls people freaks for no reason and a single wizard can apparently sentence others to death with no checks and balances. And Newt still stands out as the stupidest idiot in a sea of dumb idiots.
And then he takes a boat home. Screw this movie.