I’ll skip the whole intro about how Harry Potter is my favorite book series and it defined my childhood and made me the reader I am, etc. etc. You’ve heard it all before. Let’s get into Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
(This review contains minor and thematic spoilers)
I thought this was a really solid, fun, and unexpectedly dark film. It was different from the Harry Potter movies, obviously, and even though we weren’t in modern Britain, but 1920’s New York City, I still felt as if I was in J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding world. There were familiar quirks, spells, and references that made it easy to fall right back into the universe, but with a new, exciting sense of the unexplored. Simply, I thought the movie told a fantastically balanced story of light and darkness, and one so obviously crafted by J.K. Rowling.
I did think the first third of the movie was a bit slow, and it took a little while to get into the plot, but once the plot did kick in and the pacing picked up, I really began to fall for the characters and fall into the story in earnest.
My knowledge and expectations of this movie consisted of Newt Scamander trapezing around the city looking for his lost creatures. However, the plot held a much more sinister, dark and even creepy storyline. I’m glad it did, because that is what made me really love this movie. I needed that classic suspense, that evil underlying to make it really interesting. As the plot thickened and things began to unravel, I was shouting yes yes yes! in my head. I got my lovable, heartwarming settings and characters with friendship and whimsical creatures, but it wouldn’t be a J.K. Rowling story without the darkness underneath.
It was a great movie, and if my theory (that I discuss in the spoiler section below) is correct, a great prelude to certain events mentioned in Deathly Hallows. A little slow at the beginning, but I really ended up loving it. It was funny, whimsical, warm-hearted, and fantastically dark.
It was so easy to fall in love with Newt Scamander. He was awkward and strange, and kind and lovable and extremely passionate. Eddie Redmayne did a wonderful job of portraying him as a person far more comfortable in the company of creatures than humans. He’s most definitely the Hufflepuff of Hufflepuffs. We’ve also got Jacob Kowalski, a Muggle or “No-Maj,” a non-magical person, who gets sucked into the events of the story, and who’s adventure and friendship with Newt is humorous, adorable, and heart-warming. Simply, I found him to be a delightful character.
The two sisters, Tina and Queenie, were also great characters. I loved Tina, who was trying to redeem herself in her magical law enforcement job and who I found to be fearless and never quite shamed enough to let herself give up. I really, really enjoyed Tina and her soft, yet headstrong nature. Queenie, sweet and nurturing, came to be an important part of their little team, and while it did take some time for her to grow on me, I really ended up liking her in the end. I felt as if she didn’t get the screen time and character development that the other three got, but I really hope we get to know her better in the next movies.
Most of all I loved how these four made a team of outsiders who came together and built a lovable force of good-hearted bandits.
I also really, really loved our bad buys. We’ve got a witch hunting woman, Mary Lou, who heads a “Second Salem” to weed out the magical community, and Graves, who works for the magical law enforcement in the city. I loved how they were creepy, how there was something innately disturbing about them, something very twisted and dark and wrong. I loved the types of darkness they brought to the movie.
I did think that there could have been a bit more relation development between the characters, particularly Queenie and Jacob. However, if there is more to learn about them in the next movies, then it was a wonderful introduction to them as a team.
Some other thoughts
I loved the setting of 1920s New York City. It definitely felt as if we’d gone back in time in the Wizarding world, and the filmmakers did a wonderful job in transporting us there. The city streets, Central Park, the American Ministry of Magic all had a distinct atmosphere of old timey-ness and magic. I’ve always felt a distinct contrast between the modern Muggle world and the old fashion Wizarding world in the Harry Potter films, but within Fantastic Beasts, I feel as if we’ve gone back to the time where the two nearly matched, which I loved seeing.
Then, we go inside Newt’s case, which is without a doubt the loveliest, most magical setting we see within this movie. It’s Newt’s little world of creatures and warmth and goodness, and I loved when we got to travel into it.
Which brings us to the creatures. The creatures were whimsical, colorful, beautiful and funky, and it was fun getting to know them and watching Newt interact with them. I loved the gold hoarding niffler, Newt’s magnificent bird Frank, the dark and fluid Obscurus, and most of all Newt’s Bowtruckle, who was truly the heart-stealer. The effects were fantastic, and the movie definitely lived up to its title and gave us some fantastic beasts.
Lastly, I loved the use of apparition, and the effects they use to create it and use it as movement are so fun to watch. I also thought the “final battle” was AMAZING, and I loved loved loved the effects of the Obscurous tearing through the city.
Overall, I give this film 4/5 stars.
Some more thoughts…Major spoilers below!!
It’s been a bit of a while since I last read Deathly Hallows, but my question is,was Ariana Dumbledore an Obscurus? (Obscurial?) She had suppressed her powers, and was dangerous, and hadn’t Grindelwald and Dumbledore been doing something with her when Aberforth intervened? Hadn’t Grindelwald shown some sort of interest in her? Is she what sparked Grindelwald’s interest in finding an Obscurus?
If this is the case…that would be brilliant, and makes me a lot more intrigued about watching the next movies. I do think five is a whole lot, but if the story can prove to be great, I’m in for the ride.
Also, I really didn’t like Johnny Depp as Grindelwald. Really disliked it. He just looked…terrible? Isn’t he supposed to handsome and German and just like…someone else? I’m really not looking forward to seeing him as Grindelwald in future films and am really disappointed in that casting.
I LOVED Ezra Miller as Credence. He was such a fantastic character, and I loved Newt and Tina’s reactions in trying to save him and interacting with him. A friend of mine pointed out that Newt’s interactions with him were more animalistic, with the way he crouched and the way he spoke, while Tina was gentle, yet more commanding, more parental. Credence’s story line was definitely my favorite part of the plot, and I loved the portrayal of him. The strange intimacy of his and Graves’ interactions definitely added a creepy edge.
Overall, I really loved this film. If you’ve seen it (or not, I suppose) let me know your thoughts!