Before there was the boy who lived… there was Newt Scamander. Eddie Redmayne, Colin Ferrell, Ezra Miller and Katherine Waterston and takes place seventy years before the events of the Harry Potter franchise. We follow Newt Scamander, who travels from London to New York with a magical suitcase that contains numerous supernatural creatures. However, when they escape all over the city, its up to Newt and his team to get them back, all the while a new villain named Grindelwald wreaks havoc in the streets.
I’m a huge Harry Potter fan, I’ve read all the books and seen the movies countless times, so I was looking forward to returning in the Harry Potter universe and I was happy too discover that David Yates and J.K. Rowling especially have not overstayed their welcome. Fantastic Beats is a lot of fun and its nice to be back in this universe once again.
Eddie Redmayne is great as Newt Scamander and while some of his comedy is a little off, he’s got a lot of charisma even though he has a hard time interacting with human beings, so he gravitates more to the magical creatures he protects until he meets Jacob, an inspiring baker (who is also a no-maj, the American term for Muggle) who has no money to open his bakery and the two form a bond. Their relationship is probably the best part of this film. Their friendship is touching, sweet and it reminded me of the friendship in Harry Potter with Harry, Ron and Hermione. Dan Folger is great in this film and while his acting is a little over the top at times, he was one of the best parts of the film. Katherine Waterston was also very good as Newt’s possible love interest. She was a very strong female character and her sister, played by Alison Sudol also brought levity and charm to the film and her relationship with Jacob was sweet and simply wonderful.
Colin Ferrell is fantastic in this film and his character was complex, devious and incredibly interesting and his relationship with Ezra Miller was great even though it’s hard to see where it all fits in the bigger picture.
The soundtrack was great and it was nice to hear the Harry Potter theme again, from the opening logo to the end credits. It was a nice reminder of how much this world is huge and mysterious.
The designs of the creatures were great and while some of them looked a bit too CGI-ish, most looked real and you could actually buy that they existed in a real environment. However, the movie sometimes beat you over the head with it’s message, since it’s clear that J.K. Rowling loves animals and they sometimes get in the way of the story and it gets repetitive. The tone of the film is often in contrast with itself, where it goes from extremely light to dark to extremely light again and while I’m sure that the movies will get darker as they go along, the tone wasn’t as consistent as Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and if you compare both first movies of these two franchises, in my opinion the first Harry Potter is much better than the first Fantastic Beasts.
I’ve also had issues with the pacing. The movie often drags since it has got too many subplots and it has trouble balancing them in a coherent way. The entire orphanage plotline, where the director of the establishment Mary Lou kept telling the children that witches were walking among them since she wanted to start a witch hunt could have been removed entirely from the film. It kept bringing the film to a halt every time it was brought up. Jon Voight’s character was also pointless in the film and he didn’t matter to the overall narrative and his storyline was simply uninteresting and rather pointless. It reminded me of all the politics in the Star Wars prequels and how overbearing and uninteresting it was. Only time will tell if the pacing issues are due to the fact that we’re going to get 5 of these movies now and if the story is gonna be way too milked out or if this number of movies is gonna do a good job of expanding the universe.
Overall, while there are pacing issues and some of the CGI could have been a bit polished, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them mostly succeeds in expanding the world and makes you care about Newt Scamander and the new players involved and I’m curious to see them delve deeper in the relationship between Dumbledore and Grindelwald.