Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Review
Harry Potter fanatics will have been incredibly excited to see J.K Rowling’s works brought to life on the big screen again, but ironically this is a film that shines when it distances itself from the boy wizard’s adventures.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is set approximately 70 years before Harry, Hermione and Ron’s adventures in Hogwarts and instead follows the story of Newt Scamander – an eccentric, introverted and zoologist for magical creatures.
Most of the movie’s strengths lie exactly where one would expect – the special effects. There are scores of magical creatures who have been superbly realised and look great – particularly in the scenes where we see them in their “natural” habitats – and the American ministry building (MACUSA) is brought to life with its own unique aesthetic.
The acting is as solid as you’d expect. Love him or hate him, Eddie Redmayne makes the role of Scamander his own with some great physical acting. He plays the animal expert in a typically awkward and shuffling manner and would no doubt win another Oscar for ‘Actor who spends most time in hunched position.’
Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) is refreshing as a non-magical character who feels natural and contributes to the film from a muggle point of view (or nomaj for Americans), rather than being restricted to some shoehorned physical gags, while Ezra Miller is also brilliantly unnerving as Credence Barebone – an adopted child who seems to be wrestling with his role as a witch hunter of sorts, leading to some of the darker moments in the film.
For me the best acting comes from Colin Farrell as no-nonsense auror Percival Graves. Farrell brings some steel to a type of character we rarely saw in the original films – a powerful ministry wizard, but one who is grey in terms of his morals and motives.
As I said in the intro however, Beasts is at its best when it isn’t trying to be anything like the original films. For fans of the books, the hint of Grindelwald at the start is enough to spark excitement while setting the film in muggle New York rather than a magical school leads to interesting themes of anti-wizardry feeling and propaganda that was missing in the originals and, in a lot of ways, mirrors our world today.
My only real gripe was that is sometimes felt this story was unfolding in the background when it should have been at the forefront. Anything with the ‘Second Salem’ witch hunters feels creepy and darker then anything and Graves was in nearly all of the strongest scenes. It would have been nice to have more about them, rather one or two of the animal chase segments.
It’s easy to forget that this is the first of five instalments however and it hopefully hints at a more adult story in later films. Beasts has laid the foundations for a darker wizarding adventure – I just hope it follows it through.
Header image taken from ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – Final Trailer (HD)’ available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vso5o11LuGU
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