Directed by David Yates
Not going to bother listing the characters on this one.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is… Complicated. A book with the movie’s title exists within the Harry Potter universe and is a kind of encyclopedia about magical creatures. This movie follows Newt Scamander, the author of the book, on one of his journeys while writing it. The story this movie follows is an original composition by (now) screenwriter JK Rowling, and so, it is the first Harry Potter movie that doesn’t have to live up to the godly expectations of us book geeks.
I went into this film with zero expectations, because the trailers just didn’t click for me. I was happy that David Yates returned to direct (and subsequently, the four planned sequels) but the style of the trailers seemed all over the place.
Indeed, that slightly carries over to the finished product as well. The tone in this movie is a bit up and down (not nearly as much as in Doctor Strange). However, this is something that mostly sticks around in the first act, after which the movie really finds itself. Because of this, it took me a while to really get into this film. There were possibly one too many subplots in this movie, and it was really struggling to get them all off the ground in the first act.
However, having said that, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them pleasantly surprised me. I think most of this is because it had no primary material to rely on. If it did I’d probably be fuming at how much it deviated from the ever so precious books (this isn’t sarcasm or mockery, this is how I am when it comes to Harry Potter). After the first act it started getting better and better, and became my favourite sort of film – one that progressively gets better as it goes along.
Let’s talk about the cast. What a cast this film has. There were a couple of unexpectedly huge cameos in here, and having Eddie Redmayne helm the lead is always a welcome for me. His character, however, wasn’t the most popular with the audience I was with (one person said aloud, ignoring all political correctness, “he’s acting like a retard”). For the record, he wasn’t. This character, while already existent within the Potterverse, is original. Therefore, he could have been absolutely anything and nobody would have the right to complain about his characteristics. No matter what though, Redmayne makes him incredibly likeable. His character is clear with simple motivations, which actually parallel situations in the current real world and make it easy for an audience to connect with him. I really appreciate that Rowling did that.
Another performance I need to mention is Colin Farell, who isn’t really in the spotlight at all, but does deliver a great performance. If you’ve watched The Lobster, you’d know that there is nothing he can’t act as, and even though his character seemed one-dimensional, he didn’t fail to deliver.
A surprise appearance (at least for me) in this movie is by Ezra Miller. His character I thought went in the most predictable direction; his performance shows how far he’s come as an actor since The Perks of Being a Wallflower (where he wasn’t bad either).
What’s also worth mentioning is that, after The Jungle Book, this is the most visually compelling film I’ve watched all year. This isn’t to do with CGI, on which front Doctor Strange has no competitor, but the direction of the film. Only through visuals the location, 1926 New York, is well established, and the beauty of the wide shots, lighting and even costumes made it a detailed production, something which I appreciate of all the Harry Potter movies.
There is, however, one achievement/flaw with this movie that strikes more than all the others, and it’s that you have to be a true Potterhead to actually understand everything. I appreciate how the film makes no effort to dumb itself down (although there is one heavily expositional scene), but at the same time the film lost its value to the general audience. I know this because pretty much everyone in the theatre yesterday verbally said something that confused them. One person (pretty surprising considering the fact that the time period of this film was pretty obvious) said “Isn’t Dumbledore dead?” in response to a reference to him in the film. Another (the same genius who said Redmayne was acting like a retard – wasn’t shutting up the whole time… Maybe I should write a post about annoying people at the movies one day), despite the fact that the book for this story does not exist, confidently stated “I bet the book for this was better”.
This is not an example of me calling these people stupid, or anything as such. How could everyone be expected to know so much? The movie, too, doesn’t seem to care. Gellert Grindelwald plays a significant part in this film and yet receives absolutely no depth whatsoever… If you haven’t read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows that is. Because I have, I know the importance of the character, and pretty much everything there is to know about him (without spoiling anything, he makes a very minor appearance in the film and the casting choice, at least to me, is highly questionable).
Everything I mentioned above can be a good or bad thing. I hate it when films try to not give its greatest fans the most importance, but at the same time I feel as if everyone else who was in the movie theatre was robbed of an experience.
In any case, there are four more of these planned. How and why? I’m not sure. I don’t think all of them will be direct sequels (or I should say, I hope all of them won’t be). Perhaps we’ll get A History of Magic featuring the stories of Bathilda Bagshot, or an Albus Dumbledore film telling the story of his family and his relationship with Grindelwald. Those aren’t even jokes, I won’t be surprised if they happen. I really want to see the latter. (I am too much of a Potterhead). Perhaps they’ll focus on making films set in different parts of the world, like this one was set in America, to see how magic is in those parts (Still have to get used to No-Maj).
All I hope is that one of the planned films isn’t The Cursed Child. Actually, I really really hope that. I want to be the one to do it.
So finally, on a scale where M is the lowest and R is the highest possible rating, with the highlighted letter being the rating (actually can’t highlight as I’m writing this on my phone, so it’ll just be bold and italic):
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: MIHIR