The Elephant in the Room
I, personally, don’t think a discussion about J.K. Rowling, or Joanne as I will be dismissively calling her this entire time, can be had without setting boundaries. And the boundaries are as such:
Trans women are women.
Trans men are men.
Trans people who are agender, non-binary, genderfluid, or any term I am ignorant of are valid.
As a cis woman, I have never once in my life believed that trans women diminish my experiences.
The things Joanne tweets about trans people are disgusting and objectively false, and doing real harm to real people, and I really wish she would just fuck off forever.
All the way back in 2016, which was either seventy years or three days ago depending on the mood, Joanne announced that there would be five movies in the Fantastic Beasts series. Recently, there has been a lot of speculation about whether all five will actually be made given that Joanne seems set on being nothing more than a hate-spewing gargoyle, Ezra Miller is apparently a violent shithead, and Johnny Depp…I’m honestly not sure what’s going on there. It seems to me like him and Amber Heard were both shitheads to each other, but I’m not going to offer any definite analysis because that’s beyond my scope. Joanne is definitely exposing further layers of her hatred every time she tweets, though.
I’m not going to talk about whether these last two movies actually get made, because I stopped caring after the last one. What I really want to know is this: when they decided they were going to make five of these things, did they also plan out all five?
If yes, follow up question: what the flying fuck, Joanne?
That First Movie Doesn’t Even Feel Real Anymore
Remember that? I actually liked that first one. I didn’t love it, it’s not fantastic or anything (yuk yuk yuk) but I thought it was cute. Solid B- work. Jacob and Queenie were each great on their own and had adorable chemistry. I was so, so disappointed when Colin Farrell turned into Depp because Farrell’s performance as Obviously Grindelwald Come On Guys, Keep Up was super fun and I just wasn’t interested in Depp’s interpretation. And there were beasts! Actual cute and fun beasts!
And Newt Scamander…actually, hold on.
Newt Scamander is a Fantastic Leading Male Character
Yuk yuk yuk
You almost never get male movie leads like Newt. First off, he’s just an adult trying to do his job. None of this ‘boy wonder’ shit and we don’t have to suffer while people try to teach him spells and he ignores them all and continues to focus on putting enough power into ‘expelliarmus’ to yeet an elephant into orbit.
Secondly, he’s an introvert and he stays that way. There’s no arc where he has to learn to talk to people better or put himself out there or whatever other nonsense extroverts are constantly saying. He is who he is and the people he befriends in New York like him because of it, not in spite of it.
Third off, he’s a soft man who constantly expresses his caring and empathy in traditionally feminine coded ways. Men in Hollywood pictures aren’t supposed to care, and if they do care they have to sometimes be literally tortured to reveal any of it. Meanwhile Newt is out here living his best life, calling himself ‘mama’ to the animals in his care, making an ass out of himself in front of other people to bring some of his animals home and not giving a shit what other people think of it, and using his actual words to tell another man he likes him.
Fourth off, that last thing again. There’s an actual scene where the leading man of a Hollywood movie looks at another man and says, ‘I like you. You’re my friend.’ Like…he just says it. They don’t punch each other in the arm or talk around it in metaphors, he simply tells another man that they’re friends because that’s the kind of person Newt Scamander is and it’s fucking great.
That First Movie Doesn’t Even Feel Real Anymore
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them finds New Scamander, magical zoologist, on a trip to the US to return one of his beasts home. Hijinks in New York City pull him into a case he has some authority on: a wizard or witch in the city has turned into an Obscurus, and they need to either be saved or stopped before they essentially blow up the city.
This is exactly the sort of plot I expected from this movie. A little more aged-up from the Harry Potter movies but still family friendly. Some serious themes for the adults in the room and niflers and dragons and Eddie Redmayne prancing around a CGI rhino for the kids. Based off this – and, you know, the fact that the first two words in this series is Fantastic Beasts – you’d think that this series of movies was going to be all about Newt and his new friends, traveling the world and getting into magical animal-based adventures. That’s certainly what I expected from a series of films about the guy who wrote one of Harry’s textbooks.
Despite being generally good, the problem with this whole series is already there. The movie is tonally uneven, with the family-friendly stuff consistently punctuated by a lot of dark, weird shit. We just had half an hour of fun adventures capturing some of Newt’s adorable escaped beasts, now it’s time for the US magical government to sentence Newt and Tina to death and that death sentence is carried out by people Tina has worked with for years, calming walking the two of them into the death room, pulling a happy memory out of Tina’s head and then letting her get smothered to death while she’s gorked out on happy juice!
The thing of it is, almost if not all of these out of place dark moments have a single thing in common, which I think is the main problem with these movies.
The Grindelwald Of It All
Gellert Grindelwald, aka Wizard Hitler, aka Wizler, was really nothing more than part of Dumbledore’s Tragic Backstory ™ in the main Harry Potter series. A seemingly-born-evil dude who started some global wizarding war because he wanted to let the wizarding cat out of the wizarding bag and subjugate all muggles ‘for their own good.’ Dumbledore being young and stupid (and supposedly horny, according to Joanne’s Twitter but not according to any actions in the books or movies) falls for the ‘greater good’ part of this shit and does terrible things he’s ashamed of and that led to personal consequences, but ultimately became a building block for the great man and wizard he was by the main books. Or whatever. I don’t know, personally I think Dumbledore sort of sucks but that’s another article.
In the first movie, Grindelwald is merely a subplot. And I, foolishly, thought he’d never be anything more. Just a further way to tie Newt into the greater lore of the Harry Potter universe. Remember that time this magical zoologist got caught up and almost killed by Wizler? Wacky!
The second movie makes it abundantly clear that, no, Grindelwald is not a throwaway subplot. In fact, Grindelwald and his wizarding war is going to be the main focus of these movies, complete with a young Dumbledore everyone is already treating like Wizard Jesus, aka Wesus, come back to life.
Wait a second. A series of ill-advised prequels centered around a brief mention in the original series of a large-scale war that features over-emphasis on a character that fans love but that in-universe characters shouldn’t necessarily give a shit about yet?
In true prequels fashion, then, the next question becomes…
Why The Fuck is the First Movie, Then?
Again, it was announced at the beginning of this venture that they wanted to make five of these movies. I really have to believe that at the time they had a general idea for where they wanted the series to go. Five is such a weird number for a movie series, why put a number on it unless you know exactly what you want to do with your time? Which means Joanne and Yates always knew the real story they wanted to tell was about Grindelwald and the Wizard Wars.
So why the fuck did they couch it in this Fantastic Beasts idea?
This is ultimately where I’m so confused. If they wanted to tell the story of Wizler, just tell the story of Wizler. I can understand wanting to create a new character to become the POV for the audience, but I can’t understand why they chose Newt. He’s a magic zoologist. More than that, he’s a gentle, empathetic guy who doesn’t like making eye contact. He’s not an auror, he doesn’t want to be one, and the things he’s an expert on have nothing to do with Wizler. It’s not like he can be the specialist dragged into the fray because he’s the only one with the necessary knowledge. Wizler isn’t out here killing people by siccing beasts on them. He just avada kedavra’s their shit and moves on with his day.
And then there’s the tone stuff again. The plot shit surrounding Newt is very family friendly, and the plot shit surrounding Wizler…isn’t. He fucking kills a baby in Crimes of Grindelwald. It makes the sudden left turn into Wizard Nazi Town that much more jarring.
I’m guessing all five movies will still have the Fantastic Beasts tacked on at the front, and the further we go the more ridiculous it’s going to get. I mean, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald already sounds like a mistake. What’s the fourth title going to be? Fantastic Beasts: Wizler’s Death Camps?
Oh, that brings me to my final, bonus point:
What The Fuck Are You Talking About, Joanne?
These are seriously the movies you want to make? You want to take your fun wizarding universe and shove it into World War II? You want to directly correlate the actions of your wizarding world stand-in of Adolph Hitler to actual Adolph Hitler? You want to tell everyone that the reason your Nazi stand-in did the things that he did was to try and stop the things the actual Nazis did?
Are you fucking kidding me?
Why would you do this? This is supposed to be a fun universe primarily for kids. You take the kids to Orlando and buy them robes and wands and let them drink butterbeer and take a picture of them on the train. What are they going to do, add Wizler as a character you can take a picture with? “Come on, kids, if we hurry we can catch the weird hate-leader wizard and take a picture of him standing on your muggle backs!”
Why would you do this?
‘Why didn’t the wizards stop World War II’ is a fun question for stoners on Tumblr, not an actual issue you have to address in your world. What’s next? A series of stories supposedly about the founders of Hogwarts but really it’s about how Salazar Slytherin was committing war crimes during the Crusades?
In different, better hands this could be an interesting concept for a story. A piece of shit with magic who already wants to subjugate and kill people who don’t have magic sees the atrocities of the Nazis and nuclear weapons and uses that as fuel for his own hate-filled fire. Done by someone else, and not in an already established kid-friendly universe, I would read the shit out of this. But it doesn’t belong in the Wizarding World and it certainly shouldn’t have been the switch to The Adventures of Newt Scamander’s bait.
These movies shouldn’t have been made and Joanne needs therapy.