Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a Harry Potter spinoff film that focuses on a brand new lead character, Newt Scamander, played by Eddie Redmayne, an interestingly awkward British wizard who travels to New York in the 1920s with a case full of magical creatures he has collected. When Newt’s creatures escape from his defective case, he discovers he has only increased preexisting political tension in the United States.
I, being a Harry Potter fan, was hoping for the best when watching Fantastic Beasts. I did not get quite what I expected, but I was pleased overall with the film, given that it is the first film of a five-part series.The film did require viewers to know a little bit of background information on the Harry Potter series to make sense of the opening and climactic scenes. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them certainly casts a spell on its viewers, boasting its superb digital effects and a strong protagonist and antagonist, but it lacks the clear central plot fans expected.
Overall, what made Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them great was its balanced combination of lightheartedness and thrilling action. Its lightheartedness is mainly provided by an entertaining and comical character, Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), who is an aspiring baker in New York City and a No-Maj, or non-wizard, who gets caught up in Newt’s activities. The film also indefinitely packed in enough action for audiences of all ages to enjoy. One of the best action scenes occurs when Newt escapes from jail after being wrongly accused of killing people with his magical creatures.
But, what will certainly draw viewers and money to the film is its titular characters: the Fantastic Beasts. These beasts provide both interest and comic relief to the film when it is needed. For example, there is a scene in which Newt is trying to lure one of his creatures, called an Erumpant, which is basically a gigantic glowing rhinoceros, back into his case. To do this, Newt must perform a mating dance to lure the Erumpant because it is in its mating season. The humor provided through Newt’s embarrassing mating dance perfectly contrasted the rest of the action-packed scene in which Newt must capture the Erumpant before it causes any more damage, or even kills someone.
Apart from the fantastic lead roles, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them lacked well-developed characters and dynamic character relationships. The main critique that is necessary to point out is the film’s subplots. There are multiple subplot scenes in the movie that distract from the central plot and sometimes makes the audience question the meanings of some of these scenes. In the film’s defense, it was almost completely necessary to include these subplots to set up the main conflict for the next four films. I would recommend going to see this movie again if you do not completely understand the plot the first time. I watched this movie three times, and it has gotten better each time I have watched it.
All in all, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is definitely a magical must-see first movie for all viewers, but especially avid Harry Potter fans.
Article by staff member Marshall Fike
Photo courtesy of Interstate Studios