Of the movies currently playing in theaters right now, I’ve been most interested in three: Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, Doctor Strange, and Arrival. I’ve seen all three and wanted to share my opinion of them. TLDR; they’re all great! I recommend the first two if you like fantasy/action movies, and Arrival was far more profound than I was expecting.
There are no spoilers in this post, so feel free to read on without worry!
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the highly anticipated “sequel” to the Harry Potter series. The movie takes place in a 1920’s America, and follows the visit of a young British wizard to New York City as he attempts to understand the differences between American and British wizarding cultures.
I give the movie great marks, both for old fans of the Harry Potter universe, and for new fans who might not know very much of it. For those returning, a handful of references to Hogwarts and Albus Dumbledore where cherished. For new fans, and old alike, the movie drops us right into a world full of action and magical duels. It feels very much like the later Harry Potter movies, particularly since everyone is an adult now and they are all capable of serious magic.
I’ll criticize the development/introduction of the main antagonist, Dark Wizard Gellert Grindelwald, because they really didn’t spend much time at all telling the audience who this villain is. Even old Harry Potter fans might be scratching their heads a bit, but for those who dug deeply into the lore, you’ll be best prepared to know him. He has been mentioned in the past, but the movie didn’t do much to expand, or even remind, viewers who he is.
Beyond that, the movie contains everything you’d want from a magical action packed fantasy movie! I highly recommend it, so if you haven’t gone out to see it yet, go!
I’ll admit right away that I knew nothing about Doctor Strange prior to seeing the movie. I didn’t know he was a Marvel comic character, and I didn’t really know anything about him. But the previews looked interesting, with the warping landscapes and magical action combat scenes, so that was enough to get me into the theater. Doctor Strange is about a somewhat egotistic, megalomaniac guy who is wildly successful in his profession as a neurosurgeon. But when a tragedy happens that ruins his career, he is forced to become grounded and humble, and finds that there is much knowledge of the Universe than even he knows.
The magic in the movie is “cool” and fun, and the plot devices are interesting enough by tacking some creative license with theoretical physics. Alan Cumberbatch does a good job in his portrayal of Doctor Strange, providing the often awkward and quirky persona that is expected from someone who has been detached from reality through most of their life.
Having only seen a single preview and talking about Arrival as an “aliens” movie among friends, I was pleasantly surprised at the depth and complexity the movie offered. I thought it was going to be a wild, action packed, “Independence Day” like film, but it was far from it. Arrival is about our present day world and how one possible reaction would play out if extraterrestrials paid us a visit today. The movie eventually drops a time bomb on the viewers, providing a deep plot device that challenges the way we perceive the Universe.
I was frustrated by the one military Colonel in the movie, perhaps because his behavior hit a little too close to home for me. Essentially, he was asking the main character all sorts of “dumb” questions about why she wanted to proceed the way she did when attempting to communicate with the aliens. She is the expert, and I expect the Colonel and others to provide her some latitude in that regard. That doesn’t mean they need to accept everything she does blindly, but at least show respect and poise humble questions instead of being an ass about it. I get frustrated when having to explain basic Computer Science and Software Engineering concepts to people in my own field, so this is why it frustrated me so much. But I guess that is a good accomplishment for the movie writers and producers! They got me emotionally invested, and I could relate to the main character through this channel.
I’d also offer up another part of the movie that I found challenging to grasp, but since I said I wouldn’t give out any spoilers, I can’t write about it. Doh! Oh well, you’ll just have to go see the movie for yourself. It’s not as action oriented as the other two movies I’ve talked about in this post, but if you’re interested in a more serious, thought provoking flick, this is a great movie to go see!