Throwback Thursday: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

The next installment of the Fantastic Beasts franchise arrives in cinemas tomorrow, so I thought I’d go back and watch its predecessor in anticipation.

I wouldn’t call myself a huge fan of the Harry Potter world, as I can’t compete with the raw passion of their loyalists. But, I’ve read all the books, I’ve seen all the films, I’m fairly in tune with the lore, so I’m not exactly a casual fan either.

Although it got a good critical reception, Fantastic Beasts gets a bit of a mixed reception amongst my friends, with some of them saying it’s their favourite Harry Potter movie, and others saying they hate it wholeheartedly. I wouldn’t go as far to say that it is my favourite, but I am certainly in the camp that enjoyed this film when it came out, and upon rewatching, I can confirm that my opinion has not changed much at all.

The best part for me, was that for the first time, I was watching this film with fresh eyes, with little idea of what was to come, a luxury I was not afforded with the main Harry Potter series. For those more in tune with the lore, there are of course elements of this story that are heading towards something that die-hard fans will already know about, but with five films in total planned, the journey to that moment is unclear and that makes it all the more exciting.

The plot for Fantastic Beasts is, at it’s core, fairly basic. Magizoologist Newt Scamander heads to New York on a personal mission, only to inadvertently unleash a variety of magical creatures upon the city, among them the Niffler, one of the funniest, cutest creatures I’ve ever seen. This series of events eventually leads them down a darker path as an evil plot unfolds elsewhere and they find themselves caught up in it.

Eddie Redmayne is fantastic as Newt Scamander, the socially awkward, gentle innocence that he brings to the character makes him immediately likeable. His mannerisms and quirks may be recognisable to Doctor Who fans, as Scamander may as well be the wizard version of The Eleventh Doctor. Although we don’t know too much about the character, by the end of the film you can’t imagine anyone else being Newt, and that’s a testament to the performance.

The supporting cast is, mostly, equally strong. We are introduced to a lot of characters, but luckily they are all afforded a decent amount of screen time and nobody really feels unnecessary, which is vital considering they are assumeably all going to become a part of a much larger story as the series progresses. My particular favourite was Jacob Kowalski, a “No-Maj” who unwillingly gets dragged along for the journey, he serves primarily as comic relief and he serves this purpose extremely well.

Ezra Miller is well cast as awkward, mysterious Credence Barebone, and I look forward to seeing how his story pans out.

Colin Farrell is brilliant as the malevolent Percival Graves, his character is so interesting and, dare I say it, cool, that I know a lot of people that were genuinely gutted at the Grindelwald twist at the end, because it meant that Farrell will play no further part in the series. I can understand why many would feel this way, but I think Johnny Depp will nail the character of Grindelwald and I can’t wait to see him in action tomorrow!

Many skeptics would argue that we didn’t need Fantastic Beasts, and, they would be correct, it’s not a “necessary” addition to the franchise. But for me personally, it’s a welcome addition. It doesn’t take anything away from the original series, but it expands this massive magical world for those that are interested in seeing more, and I love that. I was a big fan of the New York setting, it was refreshing to see the Harry Potter universe from a perspective that wasn’t British. Everything in this series is coming from the mind of J.K. Rowling, and let’s be fair, she knows more about this world than anybody else, if she wants to share more of it with us, then bring it on I say!

It’s not the strongest entry in the series, but it is definitely a “mid-table” entry in my eyes and a thoroughly entertaining ride from start to finish. It’s light-hearted, funny and I found myself with a smile on my face many times, even upon re-watching. There are plenty of easter eggs for the die-hard fans but they’re subtle enough that a casual viewer won’t even notice them and it won’t detract from the overall story. Much like the Harry Potter series, I envision a darker tone flourishing more as we progress through the series, but as a first entry, it’s a solid start and an excellent warm up for what is it come.

If I was going to have any criticisms, I would say that at times the CGI is quite poor, and I would have liked to have seen more practical creatures and effects like we were given in the Harry Potter series, but luckily, it didn’t distract me too much and I still found myself having a good time. I’m not expecting much different from future films, but hopefully they can tighten up the effects a bit, as one of the charms that this series has, is that at times, it can feel very real. I don’t want to lose that sensation.

Bring on The Crimes of Grindelwald! 

I give Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them a 7.5/10. 

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