This may be a minority opinion, but I was quite content to have no new Harry Potter in my life. In fact, I could have done with far less of the original source material too. Don’t get me wrong I like the world of Harry Potter but it did drag on. As I said this is a minority opinion especially if book sales of the Cursed Child are anything to go by. So, when the trailer for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them arrived, I found myself exhausted just at the thought of another film set in that world. After having watched the film I find myself more positive about the experience but only just. Fantastic Beasts restores some of the ‘magic’ back to the world but does little more than tell a simple and forgettable story. Find out more in our review.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a book that Harry Potter read as a child yet the movie tells the story of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) who comes to North America to release an animal back to the while but soon finds himself involved in New York’s secret community of witches and wizards where a larger conflict is brewing.
There is a moment when Newt takes his friends and in turn us inside of his magical suitcase and for a moment we remember what we love about Harry Potter so much. It’s wonder and awe if you forgot, a magical world of absurdly quirky things. In his case is a zoo of Fantastic beasts and their little (and sometimes large) eccentricities. I’ve heard the film compared by some to a theme park ride and this would be the moment you feel it most. But I also think it’s one of the most delightful moments of the film. It’s not simply that there is something special about the whole coat of paint, the 1920s New York, the American version of wizardry and it all seems to be done with some care.
A non-offensive cast seems to help make a palatable movie of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Eddie Redmayne comes across as something of a quirky Doctor Who Clone taking a bunch of his notes from Matt Smith. Then there is Colin Farrell, a scheming double crosser. It’s almost a checklist of archetypes but there are a few standouts. The darkness of Ezra Miller as Credence Barebone gives a fair bit of strength to the sinister subject matter, while Dan Fogler as Kowalski is a comic delight. The bumbling nomag with a heart of gold, who first measure is awe, not fear. He lends himself as much as the heart of the film.
In fact, Fantastic Beasts has a delightful sense of humour in general. Sometimes it’s a little bit too much slapstick for my liking but brought nicely together by a witty one-liners. I was surprised to find myself laughing quite a bit.
What also surprised me is how quickly and how deftly Fantastic Beasts handles the darker topics. I’m not meaning wizardry stuff but it moves from whimsical to matters of the nastier side of human nature quite quickly. Topics such as witch hunts and child abuse slip surprisingly between jokes about some ridiculous set up we have these well handled heavier topics.
I think on the surface, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them might be an alright even entertaining film. Yet it’s that the need to make it more than that, is where it becomes problematic. From a dark opening with threat of magical terrorism to that final big bad reveal it all rings false. It’s very typical of Warner Bros to try and build a franchise before they have something successful. Financial success is one thing, but a good strong story to build your franchise upon is another. Clues to what the future films can be found littered throughout but why do I care what Newt does if I can barely understand his motivations in this first one. At the core of Harry Potter was the issue of family, of family lost, of finding a new one, of finding those responsible for the old one. It’s a driving impetus, here we have a creature that needs to be released into the wild hardly compelling viewing for five films.
The film also stumbles into its successes almost surprised at the things it does right, because it also draws out everything it does wrong. Wand fights are dull. They are flashing light with little sticks. Some might find that offensive, but we need a better representative of this or we need to stop drawing out for minutes on end. It’s like watching someone sword fight with sticks instead of something like an actual sword. The same with magicians restoring things to their former glory. One or two shots does the job no need for minutes long montage.
This isn’t a great problem all the time but in a film, that is struggling to stay under two and half hours and for a story about a glorified zoo keeper releasing an animal into the wild this is too much. This film feels long. It may not actually be, but just remember length isn’t a representation for value for money.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Review Cheat Sheet
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is likable but ultimately forgettable distractions. It restores a sense of wonder to the world while still tackling some difficult issues. But its desire to be a franchise and feeling already bloated in running time this seems like a desperate attempt to cash in. A sense of humour and some nice casting make it watchable but don’t forget there are four more films of this. So it begins, for some, I feel this might be where it ends for others!
+ Fascinating world of magic.
+ humour and heaviness mix interchangeably and surprising well.
– Need to make the film a franchise with nothing to base it on.
– Too long.
-The spectacle of wizards fighting and doing magic is over.