Movie: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Director: David Yates
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston and Colin Farrell
Five years since the last film in the original Harry Potter franchise was released, there was widespread anticipation for the next movie in J.K. Rowling's wizarding world. All eight Harry Potter films had received a positive reception and each raked in millions at the box office, so the pressure was on for Fantastic Beasts.
The film stars Academy Award winner Eddie Redmayne and was written by J.K. Rowling, which was certainly a good way to hook viewers. But overall, the movie was somewhat of a disappointment; it didn't have the spellbinding charm and appeal of the original series.
The film begins with the dull protagonist, Newt Scamander (Redmayne), coming to New York during the 20s. He carries a briefcase filled with the titular "fantastic" beasts that break free and roam around the city. The majority of the film consists of him running around New York trying to reclaim his creatures.
The film introduces an ensemble of characters, but for the most part they aren’t particularly enthralling. Scamander is drawn into a mess thanks to the miserable keener Tina Goldstein (Waterston). It seems Goldstein was meant to parallel Hermione Granger from the original series, but lacked the grace and likeability of the former. One of the only likeable characters in the film was Goldstein’s head-in-the-clouds sister Queenie (Allison Sudol) who is charming and gives a natural performance. The ‘no-maj’ (non-magical person) character of Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) serves one central purpose: to allow the writer to explain concepts to the audience.
One aspect of the film that was done quite well was the rather dark Second-Salemers plot line. The group held demonstrations and distributed pamphlets with the goal of eradicating wizards and witches. Their leader Mary Lou Backbone (Samantha Morton) was brilliantly sinister throughout the film and the children featured in the film gave chilling performances. These aspects were creepy and far less child-friendly but enabled Fantastic Beasts to appeal to a wider audience.
Although some storylines were interesting and well done, the film lacked a centralized plot and had no clear beginning, middle and end. But what could we expect from a film that is based on a 128-page children’s ‘textbook’? The film is 20-30 minutes overtime and felt like it was going to end about a dozen times. The surprise character reveal after the climax was where the film should have ended — if I had just left the theatre at this moment I would've liked the film far more.
All in all, the film was an acceptable addition to the Harry Potter universe and for die-hard fans of the franchise is a nice way for them to keep their enthusiasm going.