Two reviews this month about movies that focus on magic? Can’t be mad at that. Who doesn’t love magic? And yes, i understand that Fantastic beast and Where to Find Them came out a week ago so this review is a bit late, but you know what they say: better late than never, so let’s jump right into it.
[And also, consider this your spoiler warning if you haven’t seen Fantastic Beast]
Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them (or just Fantastic Beast for short) is the ninth film that takes place within the Harry Potter Universe. It’s also the fifth film in this universe that David Yates has directed since Order of the Phoenix. It takes place 70 years before Harry Potter first opened his schoolbook, and it follows the story of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), a young wizard, writer, and magizoologist (one who studies magical creatures) who, while in New York, is on a mission to retrieve the creatures that escaped his briefcase.
One of the most impressive things about this film is that since J.K. Rowling wrote the script this time around, the story was translated almost perfectly from book to film. You can tell she really took the time to fine tune the small details to make sure the world and creatures she created were properly brought to life. Of course, that was accomplished with the aide of David Yates. Time and time again, he’s proved that he’s the best choice when it comes to capturing the visuals and the accompanying aesthetics of this world filled with magic.
As well as the stunning visuals, this film was accompanied with a pretty swell cast. Eddie Redmayne’s Newt Scamander was a quirky, reclusive, but lovable protagonist. My favorite thing about him was that his character felt so genuine in the way he cared for the beast. It was like watching a zookeeper or an insect collector practice their craft, and the fact that Redmayne acted with CGI characters is even more impressive. The supporting cast wasn’t anything too amazing, but they helped push the movie forward well enough. Porpentina Goldstein (Katherine Waterson) was a character I had a lot of ambivalence towards. At some points I liked her, then at others she was a bit annoying because of how she kept screwing things up for Newt. Dan Fogler played Jacob Kowalski, and his character was a big surprise. He was the no-maj (muggle) that got sucked into this mess, and you’d think his character would just be used as the expositional character, or the comic relief, but he was much more than that. He added most of the emotional components of the film, and served as more than just a bumbling, fumbling sidekick.
Ezra Miller’s Credence was a bit iffy for me. Miller’s acting was fine. However, Credence as a character, and then eventually as a “villain” fell a bit short in my opinion. Finally, we had Collin Farrell who did a wonderful job once again. He plays Percival Graves, a security director of the MACUSA, who’s pretty much a dick throughout the whole movie. Of course at the end it’s revealed that Graves is actually Johnny Depp. Or rather, Johnny Depp playing Gellert Grindelwald: a dark wizard that was causing trouble for everyone in this time period. He had like five lines, so i can’t speak much on his character.
In terms of story, this is an entertaining film without a doubt. It’s full of action, humor, and fun, with just the right balance of serious and consequential situations. It was apparent that there was a slight struggle to keep up with the “Fantastic Beast” aspect of the story. There were maybe one or two scenes that seemed like they exist just for the sake of filling in space, but that was such a minuscule thing that it seems almost insignificant to mention.
To wrap this thing up, Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them is a near-perfect introduction to a new story in the Harry Potter universe. David Yates worked his magic as a director once more (pun not intended), and I hope he sticks around to direct the remainder of films they plan to produce. J.K. Rowling did a fine job translating this story to the big screen, and she should keep doing so. The visuals were gorgeous, and IMAX would definitely amplify the experience for you. The pacing was off for a very small part of the film, and luckily it didn’t take away from the experience at all. It was a treat to be brought back into this world, and I’m glad that they didn’t use too many familiar cues from the past HP films in a way that was like, “Yes this is a Harry Potter film and we’re going to throw in a LOT of fan service just to make sure you don’t forget.” That would’ve sucked. All in all, this film was great, and I don’t know what the next four films will consist of, but I’m stoked for whatever is next in The Wizarding World.
Final Score: 8.0 out of 10
Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them is now playing in theaters.