Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them: Review
Return to The Magical World of J.K. Rowling
Fantastic Beasts marks the return to the worldwide phenomenon that is the Harry Potter Universe, created by the beloved and prolific author J.K. Rowling. It’s been 5 years since we bade a tearful farewell to the boy who lived, and although the hype surrounding the film is understandably high, one glaringly obvious caveat of the film is that Harry Potter isn’t even in it! Instead, Fantastic Beasts is set 70 years prior to Harry’s first step into world culture, and features Eddie Redmayne as the magizoologist Newt Scamander, who has travelled to New York to carry out an assignment on behalf of the Ministry of Magic. While there, a non-magical (No-Maj) human named Joshua Kowalski (Dan Fogler) accidentally opens Newt’s briefcase filled with the titular Fantastic Beasts, and as the creatures escape into the city, Newt has to find and catch them, in a real-life Pokemon Go-esque hunt. This is all backdropped against strange happenings in the Big Apple, as the magical government of MACUSA and the brooding auror Percival Graves (Colin Farrell) investigate these mysterious events which are making the non-magical beings very nervous. It carries the Rowling brand, but it seems very ambitious for a spin-off film. Can it live up to expectations and is the film even any good?
Right off the bat, Fantastic Beasts has a lot on its mind. It’s not one linear storyline, rather 3 different stories interwoven into the film, coming together with a big, explosive finale. At times this does feel slightly jarring, but is easily overlooked once we focus on the film’s biggest strength: The film has discovery and adventure at its core, as J.K. Rowling successfully expands upon the wizarding world we’ve all come to love, with her creativity and imagination flying right off her well-written screenplay. This is channeled through some cool-looking locales which provide an abundance of VFX eye candy, but is mainly highlighted in the fantastic beasts themselves, with each magical creature getting us excited to see the next weird and wacky species conjured up by Rowling. These creatures provide much of the excitement, charm and humour that the film provides, and is the main reason I enjoyed the film.
A Mixed Basket of Characters
Eddie Redmayne puts in a solid performance yet again with the awkward, bumbling, animal-loving Newt Scamander, whose past will surely be explored in later films. Colin Farrell as Graves plays his part well, and ended up being the character that I was most excited to learn about particularly in the third act of the film. Katherine Waterston as Tina Goldstein, a disgraced auror, feels slightly undercooked, as it feels as if her character was shoehorned in to progress the plot and to serve as Scamander’s supposed love interest. A standout performer was in fact Dan Fogler as Jacob Kowalski, as his perpetual wonder, surprise and comic timing makes him the character who we can relate to best, almost as if we’re watching the film through his eyes.
Can David Yates Take on the Next Four Films?
Some issues I had with this movie included the unnecessary slow pace of some scenes, especially in the first act of the film. The film takes quite a while to settle into its stride, and at one point, there is even a complete standstill of story progression, which personally took me out of the movie. This is slightly worrying as this is director David Yates’ fifth movie in the same universe, and one wonders if it’s a sign of a fatigue that will show more obviously in the next 4 “Fantastic Beasts” movies he’s signed on to direct. Only time will tell, but a personal opinion is against Yates returning, as it would be exciting to get a fresh director's new take on this ever-expanding world.
Overall, Fantastic Beasts is filled with enough charm and world-building excellence to get me excited for the next few films in this series. Much of the excitement is due to the prospect of seeing Professor Dumbledore return to the big screen, as well as the casting of Johnny Depp as the dark wizard Grindelwald, undoubtedly the Voldemort of the series. The film has pacing issues but most of it is both fun and intriguing, and surely one that’ll be a joy for Harry Potter fans to watch.
OVERALL RATING: 7.3/10