I'm a HUGE Harry Potter fan. I've read the books, watched the films, bought the video and board games, signed up for Pottermore (proud Ravenclaw here!), and dressed up as Harry Potter one year for Halloween. Don't get me wrong, there are SO MANY more hardcore and diehard fans out there that I could never be on there level. I may be a Ravenclaw, but I probably would have trouble in Potions class (give me Charms or Transfiguration any day!). However, I love being part of this fandom.
When I heard a new movie was coming out for this world, you better believe I was excited. It's been a while since the last Harry Potter film and after finishing the play, I still don't want it to end. Now hearing the latest movie is going to be a trilogy, I'm left wondering what will be introduced and discussed. This review will be unbiased and will review the merits of the film as it is, regardless of any preference to the films/past. The movie I will be reviewing today is the magical adventure: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
The Premise: As creatures and a mysterious force cause destruction in 1920's New York City, British wizard Newt Scamander (played by Eddie Redmayne) is pulled into the adventure to solve the mystery and prevent magic from being exposed to the public. Aiding Newt is former Auror Tina (Katherine Waterston), non-magical Jacob (Dan Fogler), Tina's sister Queenie (Alison Sodul), and Newt's briefcase containing endless magical creatures.
The Good: There is no denying the fact that Fantastic Beasts is beautifully executed. The visual effects and design of the world - from the clothing to the sets to the magical spells - are perfected to every last detail. Simply watching the film and enjoying its appeal is enough to fill the two hour film. The same can also be said to the sheer mythology presented; Fantastic Beasts introduced so many new creatures, characters and background for the magical world that fans/viewers/readers never got to know outside of the British world in the Harry Potter books and movies. I learned a lot about the North American magical community.
Another positive to Fantastic Beasts is the choice of actors and characters selected for the film, for the most part. (I'll dive deeper into this point later on in the review.) I enjoyed following Newt as the main character and his relationships with the rest of the other characters, particularly with Jacob and Tina. Redmayne did a great job and I have no doubt he can lead the next two films; though, he was a bit spacey at times and I'll get into it later on as well.
The Bad: Now here comes the moment that some fans may debate me as there are some issues to the film. The first being the overwhelming content and information in Fantastic Beasts - A LOT was included. Like I said above, I loved learning all this new bit of information, but so much was introduced that it took a lot to follow everything. I doubt details about certain creatures or characters will be important later on in the trilogy. In fact, unless Jon Voight's side-story comes back into the picture as a main influence, I found these characters and story to be irrelevant and could've been removed to save space.
Let's talk about the acting for a second. I understand that this movie is set in the 1920s and it's a fantasy film, but it at times felt a bit too comical or "in persona" for the era. Queenie's accent was really thick and she came across as too airy/breathless, Tina felt a bit too dorky and earnest for someone who earned the title of Auror, and Newt seemed spacey with his eyes staring into the distance a lot. Since I'm not familiar with the backstory, I'm attributing this to the personality of the characters and I can overlook this. However, it is something I'm going to notice in the next installment if all three return.
The Results: 4.8/5
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is an amazing film. I loved following Newt's adventure and exploring this new world of creatures and magic in North America. The special effects are excellently done; it clearly beats some of the films in the series that have preceded it in the past. For the casual watcher, there IS a lot to take in and you may get confused at times trying to figure out what is going on or who they're talking about. The acting is a bit cheesy at times; though, it may be part of the character's esthetic. This is a perfect film for any Harry Potter to jump right in and enjoy with a bag of popcorn. But for a new or casual fan, I would recommend taking a friend who is familiar or spend some time afterwards learning everything - you'll love being part of this world.