“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” Review

//DAVID ROBINSON//

Genre: Fantasy/Adventure

Director: David Yates

Based on: “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” (2001) by J.K. Rowling

Writer: J.K. Rowling

Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Gemma Chan, Ezra Miller, Colin Farrell, Zoe Kravitz, Ron Perlman, Jon Voight, Dan Fogler and Carmen Ejogo

Release Date: November 18, 2016

Runtime: 2 hours, 13 minutes

Rating: Rated PG-13 for “some fantasy action violence”

Plot Summary: “70 years before Harry Potter read his book in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, wizard Newt Scamander journeys through New York’s secret magical community to locate and catch magical creatures he accidentally set loose.”

It has been five years since the booming success of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II” (2011), but David Yates has finally returned to adapt another story from the Wizarding World of J.K. Rowling. Instead of this story focusing on Harry Potter however, it is instead centered on wizard Newt Scamander who embarked on a magical adventure throughout New York’s magical community 70 years before Harry Potter read his textbook in Hogwarts. Scamander enters New York with an enchanted suitcase stocked full of wondrous beasts and creatures from the Wizarding World and unfortunately some of them escape. This sets our hero, his Non-Maj (non-magical) friend Jacob Kowalski and talented witch Porpentina Goldstein on an extraordinary and spellbinding mission.

As is the case with most sequels (or, in this case, prequel), it was not as good as it’s predecessors. The “Harry Potter” films (2001-2011) are indescribably wonderful; no series or film will ever be able to duplicate or mirror the true wonder that those eight films presented to audiences, so I knew that it would not be better than “Harry Potter”, but believe it or not, there are actually some aspects of this film that actually outdo those eight magnificent films:

The first of those aspects is the alluring visual effects that transports audiences into the mind of J.K. Rowling; the effects far outweigh anything that the “Harry Potter” franchise has been able to render because their sheer creativity and beauty takes the breath away from audiences. There is zero doubt in my mind that this film’s visuals is going to be nominated for an Oscar.

Another aspect of “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” (2016) that I loved was Colin Farrell as Percival Graves; his character was tenacious, agile and cunning and Farrell did such a great job of bringing this character to life that he made me realize that he might just be the best actor to ever play a part in a J.K. Rowling adaptation.

Without spoiling anything, I can also say that there is a plot twist near the film’s end credits that will shock and surprise audiences. This scene  was, without a doubt, my favorite part. I promise fans that they will enjoy this surprise because it is easily recognizable, unexpected and inventive.

I also really enjoyed that this film takes the time and effort to show how the magical and non-magical communities interact with each other while also showcasing the American magical community. The “Harry Potter” films slightly touched on magic’s interference with the real world, but it never really delved into it and it certainly never featured the American magical community, so “Fantastic Beasts” beat “Harry Potter” on that note.

Although “Fantastic Beasts” did have those noteworthy qualities that trumped “Harry Potter”, I do not believe it is better than “Harry Potter” for the following reasons:

Excluding the scene near the end, the course of the story is fairly predictable, dry and mundane. I was able to predict most of the story from the beginning and it’s events which was just not very fun or entertaining for me. I expected an unpredictable story from “Fantastic Beasts” and unfortunately did not get it.

I also want to point out that I absolutely loathed Katherine Waterston and her character in this movie. She is so awkward, nervous and annoying in this movie that I was constantly (I know this is really evil, but it was what I honestly felt) rooting for her character to die. I could not stand her and I really wish that the casting team had sought out an actress like Keira Knightley, Emily Blunt or Kate Winslet who could have knocked it out of the park in this role. Her character’s development made absolutely no sense to me, her fake crying and emotional breakdowns are pathetic and I just flat out hated her.

The last problem I have with “Fantastic Beasts” is that I am not 100 percent sure how I felt about Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander; he really did not give off that great of a performance, he seemed like he was trying a little too hard to be appear crazy in this movie and I did not really get what kind of a vibe he was trying to give off to audiences. Orlando Bloom, Nicholas Hoult or Sam Claflin would have made a better Scamander in my eyes because all of them possess the ability to know what kind of role they are supposed to be playing and stick to it. Eddie Redmayne, on the other hand, decided that it would be a good idea for his character to jump back and forth between different character personalities which caused a total mess in the script.

With all of that being said, it was still very satisfying to see a film set in J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World reappear after a five-year hiatus. For it’s visual effects, excellent performance from Farrell, investigation of magical/non-magical interactions, explanation of the American magical community and shocking scene near it’s end, I am going to give “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” a “B+”. Fans of “Harry Potter” and/or fantasy films should definitely rush to theaters to see this because it is magical.

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