Director: David Yates
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Colin Farrell, Katherine Waterson, Dan Fogler, Ezra Miller, Samantha Morton, Alison Sudol
After the recent news that ‘Fantastic Beasts’ was going to become a five film franchise, J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World shows absolutely no signs of stopping, and with returning ‘Harry Potter’ director David Yates, and a screenplay penned by the mastermind herself, ‘Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them’ was undoubtedly in good hands. The good news for Potter fans, is that ‘Fantastic Beasts’ certainly encapsulates all of the elements that made the ‘Harry Potter’ series so wonderful, and so popular, and whilst it is still very early days, it appears to be a series which will grow in strength and increase in quality as the films progress.
Whilst Hogwarts and Muggles are familiar terms to Potterheads, ‘Fantastic Beasts’ introduces us to the Wizarding World of New York and “No-Maj’s”, through the eyes of Magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne). In this new setting, and with new characters to explore, is where ‘Fantastic Beasts’ is at it’s strongest, as it broadens the world we are so familiar with, opening up the scope for new stories and adventures, as well as exploring the lives of characters we are somewhat familiar with.
The ‘Harry Potter’ franchise succeeded in many ways because of the likeability of its characters, and ‘Fantastic Beasts’ certainly has this in abundance as well. Newt Scamander is instantly likeable as a character, charmingly foppish, and the wonderfully nuanced performance of Eddie Redmayne demonstrates this is a really perfect pairing of character and actor. Redmayne instantly feels like he belongs in this universe, which was essential for making it work. Katherine Waterson as Tina took a little longer to warm to, but she’s an interesting character who feels like she has a past just waiting to be explored in later films, which is great news for the future of the franchise. Dan Fogler provides wonderful comic relief as Jacob Kowalski, but there’s enough character development to ensure that this isn’t the only thing he is there to do.
The fantastic beasts of the title do not disappoint either, and there’s some wildly imaginative and varied creatures on offer. The special effects all round are also really good, and it is highly believable to imagine the real actors interacting with the computer generated critters. One of the strongest elements of ‘Fantastic Beasts’ is unquestionably the design; it really does look quite fantastic, and the aesthetics, set design and costumes are all absolutely spot-on. The world building is incredibly effective, and whilst it is very different to the ‘Harry Potter’ films, it stills feels like it is part of the same world, which is incredibly important.
Where the film stumbles slightly is in its overwhelming preoccupation with trying to set up the franchise, and as a result, the plot feels cluttered and messy. It jumps around quite a bit, and there’s some elements which could’ve been left out and saved for later films. It’s throwing so many different things at you, and sometimes lacks cohesion, but as a film which sets up the characters and the world, it is undeniably effective. It’s just a shame that it really feels like a segment of the story, and it’s not a film which will easily able to stand on it’s own. It’s also a slight concern how this story will be stretched across five films, but this is a judgement which needs to be reserved until the next few instalments.
Potter fans will absolutely not be disappointed with this film, and whilst it isn’t perfect, it’s still an entertaining watch, with enough magic to satisfy muggles and wizards alike. It’s a welcome return to the Wizarding World, and hopefully the start of even better things to come…