Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Review
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Review
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a prequel to the Harry Potter series originally written by J.K Rowling, who also makes her screenwriting debut on the film which is inspired by the book of the same name. Director David Yates returns to the wizarding world once more for a new story which follows Newt Scamander, a young wizard visiting New York in the 1920’s with a suitcase full of magical creatures. The film stars Eddie Redmayne, Colin Farrell and Katherine Waterston.
Fantastic Beasts for the most part is a successful return to the wizarding world which fans were first introduced to on the big screen in 2001. While the film lacks the urgency and drama of the later Harry Potter films, it remains an engaging and fun journey largely thanks to Redmayne as the charming, slightly awkward but likeable Newt Scamander and his magical creatures. His character is interesting and quirky enough to hold the audience’s attention and there are hints in the film at a more troubled youth, understandable as his creatures cause plenty of trouble in the streets of New York.
There are plenty of fantastical creatures peppered throughout Fantastic Beasts to enjoy as the name would suggest whether it’s the cute and endearing ones such as the gold-obsessed Niffler or the handy Bowtruckle, or the more majestic creatures such as the Thunderbird. All the creatures feel imaginative and fit in with what fans have come to expect from a world where we’ve already seen Basilisks and Dragons. What’s more you do get the sense that Scamander really does care for the creatures and you get the impression that he’s more comfortable around them than other witches and wizards at times. This is juxtaposed with Colin Farrell’s character Graves, an Auror who considers Scamander’s beasts dangerous and who has his own plans which I won’t spoil here.
As far as the story is concerned there’s plenty of light-heartedness and humour particularly when it comes to Scamander’s human companions such as Kowalski, a No-Maj (Muggle) who is looking to get a loan from the bank to start a bakery where he has the misfortune of getting caught up in Scamander’s escapades. He’s also a good focal point for those who may never have seen the Harry Potter films or for those less familiar to Rowling’s wizarding world. Other people along for the ride with Scamander are witches Tina played by Katherine Waterston and her sister Queenie played by Alison Sudol. While Waterston doesn’t really have much to do in the film and isn’t particularly noteworthy, Queenie does get some humorous material particularly when she plays off Kowalski who is awed by all the magic he’s seeing. The plot is pretty fun while Scamander and his associates search for his lost creatures but there are hints at a darker story unfolding which definitely takes centre stage in the third act where the film becomes more reminiscent in tone of the later Harry Potter films.
One of the film’s biggest problems is its over reliance on CGI which takes some of the magic away. While the creatures and beasts we see are obviously CGI, so are some of the sets and much of the backdrop of New York which aesthetically make the wizarding world in New York feel less realistic and harder to get lost in as you did at Hogwarts. In addition, the final act involves a swirling, black, destructive cloud as a fairly cheap and generic way of causing destruction and although there is a story and plot behind it all, it doesn’t feel quite as menacing as intended.
That said the film does a good job of establishing the American wizarding world with differences that stand out because of the time period, for example the No-Maj have a more strained relationship with magic and part of the film centres around protests being held against wizardry. There are neat references to characters and Hogwarts for fans of the original books or films too. Fantastic Beasts does tie into the larger Harry Potter franchise albeit in an indirect manner and you don’t really need prior knowledge going into the film although it does give you a better grasp of the events unfolding.
Overall, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them doesn’t quite have the draw of Harry Potter and Hogwarts but its a fun ride nonetheless thanks to the likeable and charismatic Scamander played by Redmayne and his briefcase of interesting and fascinating creatures. The film does a decent job of introducing us to a new location in the wizarding world and setting the stage for more films in the future.
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