This week I went to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which I was excited about seeing since I saw the trailer. It looked wonderful. It’s been so long since I’ve seen the Harry Potter Universe, I think I kind of missed it. This movie is a wonderful dip back into that imaginative world and it’s just as full of wonderful things (and beasts) as ever. Make no mistake, this movie was made for the fans; I’m not sure how much would make sense to the two or three people left who haven’t read at least part of the books.
The main strength of this movie was the richness of the world combined with an enormous attention to detail. Everything looked gorgeous. I know I’ve said this before (koff koff Gods of Egypt) but this time I mean it – the special effects looked amazing. There were plenty of magical critters and they all had unique character and body language and were a lot of fun to look at. I’m sure it helped that there was enough source material to work with but the character design and visual arts did all of source material justice and then some.
Fantastic Beasts and where to find them takes place in a New York during the 1920s. I’m a sucker for this era, the roaring twenties, the heart of prohibition and right in the middle New York; it couldn’t have been better. I’m no expert but it really felt like they got their history right. The buildings, the lamps, the cars the costumes, the way people talked, all of it felt pretty accurate. Plus, something about the Harry Potter version of the Harry Potter wizarding community really lends itself well here, the grandiosity of magical structures goes very well with the Art Deco trend of the time. There were magical speakeasies which might have made me squeal in delight.
As for the acting I’ve always really liked Eddie Redmayne and this role suited him. The way his character was awkward with people but open and empathetic with animals seemed genuine. Dan Folger was also great, the very likeable muggle (or ‘No-Mag’ as they call them across the pond) who was caught up in the wonder of a world just below his own. I also adored Alison Sudol, the mind reader with no verbal filter who not only said what was on her mind but what was on everyone else’s as well. Most of all I loved Colin Farrell, who looked very dapper and was, in fact, a complete badass.
The only criticism I have is the writing, because why wouldn’t I criticise the world’s most successful (and richest) author? The world of Fantastic Beasts was rich and absorbing, the setting and characters all backstories, but the plots and subplots in the actual movie itself was contrived. Magic arbitrarily caused problems and solved them, depending on what the plot needed at the time. I would have liked to see the main plot revolve a bit more around some Fantastic Beasts, (and possibly where to find them) instead of what ended up being the main plot. The pacing was also a bit wonky. Maybe I’m nitpicking here but there were some points where this was particularly egregious.
So was Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them worth watching? Heck yes, I loved it. See it on the the big screen in 3D. I want to watch it again just to see everything and I’m even hoping for a sequel. I want to see more of the rivalry between Hogwarts and the American school, the clash between the two cultures. I am reminded why I liked the books and it’s nice to have a grown-up story in that world.