Quick Hit: A decent addition to the new HP series – it never approaches the series at its height, but is serviceable throughout.
I was among the throngs of excited young children they were clamoring their parents to go at midnight to buy each new Harry Potter book throughout their releases. I was among those that went to midnight showings (yes, those were a thing once upon a time – none of this Thursday night at 7:00 release stuff) of each and every one of the eight Harry Potter films. I was also in the dedicated Pottermore readership when it was released that a new film following Newt Scamander would be coming to us soon. Seeing as I am a dedicated creature fan since before I could walk, magical creatures have always been a bit of a side fascination within literature and movies, and I was just right within the target for this film.
That being said, I enjoyed the film, but I don’t know if I would go as far as saying I loved the film. It was solid, with plenty of J.K.’s true humor. However, due to the fact its building up an entire country’s worth of magic, along with trying to slide as many references to the larger Wizarding world into it, it suffers from feeling like you are on the fringes of a bigger picture (much like the Marvel films can feel like at time).
Fantastic Beasts suffers and gains from the fact that we are entered into a world where magic is practiced and commonplace. It suffers because it pulls away some of the, well, magic from the story. But it is quite exhilarating when we are immediately plunged into characters that can Apparate at will and perform quick spells without speaking incantations all the time. It’s thrilling to be dropped into this world, and that’s why it’s all the better when we get a No-Maj that drops into it with us. With Dan Fogler’s Kowalski, we are given that magic back, at least for the scenes that he is in.
Really, it’s the side characters that inject the movie with life. Colin Ferrell is pretty vanilla as the bad guy, and though I typically enjoy Ezra Miller, I felt his potential was wasted here. Newt (Eddie Redmayne) is played with perfection, simultaneously awkward towards people, but delicately charming towards his beasts and creatures. For me, besides Fogler, who never once fumbles the ball, I really enjoyed Alison Sudol as Queenie. She gets to carry a lot of the emotional world building, and though I wasn’t necessarily a fan of the content inclusion, I really liked Queenie’s handling of it.
What was disappointing for me was that the entire movie ended up boiling down to a CGI spectacle, and a disappointing one at that. I really liked the idea of the obscurial – something so simple and yet so powerful (though it raises questions about why exactly Harry didn’t turn into one, with the way he was beaten into submission by the Dursleys). I didn’t like the final reveal, which to me seemed rather obvious given the inclusion of certain characters (that Economy of Characters thing again).
When all things are considered, I think this entry will please most Potter fans. We have a new hero, who is probably more interesting than Harry already (my, my did I actually type that), and some fun new characters. I’m going to give Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them a “B”.
For more on this movie check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"