In a world where Hollywood has made the decision to expand the universes of properties with large fan bases, the question has to be asked as to whether or not we need to have prequels or stand alone films connected to every single fandom out there. The question has been asked repeatedly since it was announced that Warner Bros. had decided to approve the production behind Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them.
As an almost rabid fan of Harry Potter, I was excited to see what they would do with the minimal source material that they had since the short anthology text is really just that – an anthology. My expectations were reasonably set low and I went in with an open mind.
That being said, let’s get to the review. Be forewarned, there may be SPOILERS ahead!
The CGI of this film was truly remarkable, especially considering how long the Harry Potter franchise has been around for and how much CGI has involved since the first movie came out. The animation of the animals was probably the highlight for me because here were creatures that I had only read about in the original Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them anthology text and they had now been brought to life. Each creature had its own distinctive personality and, thanks to Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) explaining things to No-Maj Jacob (Dan Folger), we were able to learn about all the creatures in a satisfactory manner.
With regards to the creatures, if Warner Bros. doesn’t jump on the merchandising train and create plushes of all the beasts in this film, I will be greatly disappointed.
Another thing of note was the world building. Granted, a lot of it was done before this movie came out via Pottermore but, even if you had no access to Pottermore and went into the movie completely blind, you got a sense of what the world was like in this film almost immediately due to the exposition at the beginning of the film.
The first thirty minutes of the film fill the audience in on almost everything that they need to know. Infamous Dark Wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) has been causing havoc in Europe and his recent disappearance has everyone in the Wizarding community on edge, especially in the United States where relations between the No-Mag community and Wizarding community are barely hanging on by a thread. Tension is high and, honestly, that’s all the audience needs to know.
The biggest and most noticeable problem was the plot or, rather, plots that took place throughout the movie. Much of it had to with the writing, which was all done by J.K. Rowling in her first venture into writing a screenplay. For an author who’s used to writing very long novels where numerous plots are interwoven together, this particular writing flaw in the movie makes sense.
However, this leads to an identity crisis of sorts for the movie due to a desire to make the film more serious than it needs to be.
The basic premise of the plot is simple enough. Newt Scamander arrives in America with a pure-hearted mission; his suitcase full of fantastical creatures in tow. One of his creatures gets out and causes havoc in public, which then involves No-Maj Jacob. Unbeknownst to Scamander, the city of New York has been plagued by an invisible being of sorts that is drawing attention to the American Wizardry community. So, this could not have happened at a worse time. One thing leads to another and Scamander is off on the search for the creatures that have magically escaped from his suitcase.
The plot above honestly would have been enough, but then there had to be subplots.
While Scamander is busy trying to re-capture his creatures, Auror Percival Graves (Colin Farrell) is meeting up with the crazy Anti-Witch lady’s adoptive son Credence (Ezra Miller) in order to try to find a young girl who is potentially housing the power that may be causing the destruction of New York City. This leads to a really substantial spoilers, which I will not be sharing because I’m not that evil of a person yet.
Then there is an unnecessary subplot that involves actor Jon Voight playing an owner of a newspaper, which really only existed to serve as the turning point for No-Majs in New York City to start believing in witchcraft. This could have been done in many other ways without bringing in more characters to confuse the audience.
The portion of the writing that I felt was the absolute weakest was during an epic climatic battle sequence towards the end of the movie. Without giving anything away, the moment of the climax was cheapened by unnecessarily written cameo appearances of characters who really didn’t need to be involved in the film. It may have been written to be daring or shocking but, in my opinion, this moment cheapened the movie as a whole.
Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them was an immensely entertaining film. Yes, there were plot points that should have been edited and smoothed out but, overall, it was a good addition to the Harry Potter cinematic universe. I definitely plan on seeing it again and not just due to my love and desire to kidnap all the creatures from the film. It was a great distraction from the stuff going on in the world, even if it was a little serious at points. If you want to watch something entertaining, this new addition to the Harry Potter world will do the trick.
Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them is now open in theaters starting today – November 18, 2016.