Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016): Kind of “Meh”
Five years after the release of Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows Part 2, J.K. Rowling has taken us back to the wizarding world with the new movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them! The review will be spoiler free (as always). Enjoy!
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is directed by David Yates and stars Eddie Redmayne, David Fogler, and Katherine Waterston among others. The film follows Newt Scamander as he comes to New York in search of man to help him with his magical creatures. All the while, a dark wizard by the name of Grindelwald is terrorizing places around the world, making the wizarding world wary of possible exposure and war with non-magic people. After a mishap, some of Newt’s creatures break loose of his magical suitcase and cause havoc around the city which really makes wizards bristle. All the while, a new dark force threatens to destroy New York.
Being a fan of the Harry Potter series (a “Pot-Head” if you will), I was very excited for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. From the trailers and other marketing material released by Warner Bros. for this movie, it seemed that David Yates and the rest of the crew had recaptured that whimsical, other-worldly tone that we all love from the Potter franchise. One thing I was intrigued about going into the movie was that J.K. Rowling has the sole writing credit on the movie. Certainly she’s proven to have a grasp on the material, but I was curious to see how her writing style would translate to the screen or if the movie would have the narrative style of a novel instead.
I also thought the casting of Eddie Redmayne was a solid choice. From the trailers we’ve seen, he seems just so damn charming and likable. Already an Oscar winner, Redmayne always loses himself in his roles, truly becoming the character on screen. Warner Bros. made the right choice of attempting to create a super likable character that’ll keep moviegoers coming back for the four intended sequels to Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them. I also really like the casting of Colin Farrell as Percival Graves. Farrell has always had a presence about him that I find very gripping, no matter the movie.
What I Liked
After approximately two hours and fifteen minutes, I left the theater somewhat content.
Newt is a really charming, goofy character to start a new franchise. He has a really genuine relationship with his creatures (some of which I couldn’t help but gush over since they’re so adorable). The film has some nice themes about animal protection and preservation without hitting you over the head with them at all. I will say some of Newt’s quirks may be off-putting to some, but it’s even addressed at one point in the movie and it is one of the funnier moments in the film.
The four lead characters are great together for that matter. There’s some great chemistry created between them, leading to some very touching moments throughout the film (especially between Jacob Kowalski and Queenie). Dan Fogler (Jacob Kowalski) was definitely a standout. Fogler has always been the comic relief as the dopey guy in movies (Balls of Fury for one), but this time he really had some genuine heart and emotion in his performance that really resonated with everyone in the theater. This movie rests on the shoulders of the main characters and is truly fun and other times sweet when it needs to be.
What I Didn’t Liked
I do have a couple issues with the film, however. The pacing was quite an issue. I felt that the story spent so much time with the beasts then it would quickly move to another plot point that was much darker (I’m purposefully being vague so that you go into the movie as blind as possible). It’s very slow then all of a sudden flies into the climax of the film which I also found underwhelming.
The idea behind what causes the climax is a really cool take on dark magic forces that we have yet to see in the Harry Potter cinematic universe and I really hope it’s explored more going forward in the planned sequels for Fantastic Beasts. But the way it was executed made the final act feel like a standard mass destruction of a city finale, causing it to feel very flat. Regarding what I touched on earlier, I think this movie would have worked better as a novel the way Rowling structured it.
Nonetheless, I do feel like Fantastic Beasts set up the rest of the sequels very nicely without calling back too much to the Harry Potter movies to play off a sense of nostalgia. It plays well as its own movie. I’m very excited for what is to come next and I am totally invested in all the characters moving forward (and the beasts as well).
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them sets up the franchise nicely, bringing back that whimsical feel of Harry Potter while standing on its own. Despite its third act deficiencies, I’ll give Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them a B. I have a ton of questions that I’m looking forward to being answered!
Thank you so much for reading. What did you think of Fantastic Beasts? Comment and let me know!
What should I review next? Whether it’s old or new, the choice is up to you!