“Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them” is Fantastical and Full of Heart – Movie Review

J.K. Rowling has created this generation’s fantasy epic

Joel Freecheck, Editor-In-Chief

 
Still from "Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them", courtesy of Warner Bros.
Still from “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them”, courtesy of Warner Bros.

Imagine a Harry Potter novel that no one has read yet. A cluttered bookstore filled to the brim with anxious readers just waiting to get their hands on the newest manuscript. Millions lined up across the world, fighting to be the first to finish the latest chapter of the story about the boy who lived.

There’s a subtle magic to Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them in the way it was written. It feels separate, but still, cohesively meshed with the world we grew up to love and fanatically read. J.K. Rowling has opened the door once again into the magical world of Harry Potter, but this story is not about Harry, and that’s the beauty of it.

Still from "Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them", courtesy of Warner Bros.
Still from “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them”, courtesy of Warner Bros.

Newt Scamander was a name echoed throughout the seven volumes of the original book series. Most known for his contributions to Harry’s coursework and textbooks, Scamander is a genius on mythical creatures. Going into Fantastic Beasts, I was expecting to see the world through the lens of Harry once again. My mind raced at the opportunity to see the latest Harry Potter laid out before my eyes. When the first scene started to roll and that beautiful soundtrack began to play, I was caught off guard by how vastly different this movie seemed compared to the Harry Potter I grew up with.

Watching the movie felt like a someone’s imagination enveloping and submerging you into a mix of nostalgia and excitement. It didn’t feel like Harry Potter. Sure, the characters had wands, they used magic and spells, and they talked about muggles, but something about the movie felt strange. It wasn’t until I walked out of the theater that I realized what just happened, and why I was slightly disappointed. I went into the film wanting another Harry Potter sequel, and what I got was so original, and so fantastical, that my mind couldn’t appreciate it in its entirety until it was over.

2016-11-16_22h06_02
Still from “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them”, courtesy of Warner Bros.

Fantastic Beasts feels long and unstructured as you watch it. The acts may have been laid out perfectly and the character arcs came to fruition at the proper time, but the movie felt unrestrained. It takes a moment to really capture what’s going on, and I consider that a compliment. I was never bored or confused, but rather lost in a familiar world with a renewed longing to explore.

The main character, Newt, is similar to Harry Potter because of the stigma attached to him. He is awkward to others and obsessed with his briefcase preserving the most unique creatures to exist. Unlike Harry, he never inherited this stigma, though, as Harry grew up as “the boy who lived”. Newt developed it on his own, and it’s refreshing to watch a character that reminds you of Harry and his adventures but also begs you to follow his story as in unravels.

Still from "Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them", courtesy of Warner Bros.
Still from “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them”, courtesy of Warner Bros.

In fact, each character felt concrete and alive. Some of the story may have overshadowed a bit of the characterization that the filmmakers were trying to achieve, but in the end it works, and it works well. Never did a character seem out of place (other than the awkward British Newt in 1920’s America) or seemed too thin to be believed. The villain of the series, and hopefully the franchise is a plot twist to those who aren’t looking for it and his motivations are entirely clear. As for the terror that is tearing through New York, this is where the movie may have over-extended its plot just a tad.

The movie has two very separate plotlines it tries to follow, and various subplots embedded into each. There is a clear point in the middle of the movie where one part ends and another begins.

Still from "Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them", courtesy of Warner Bros.
Still from “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them”, courtesy of Warner Bros.

The first act is an introduction to the American Wizarding World and Newt’s amazing briefcase and what it holds. Gorgeous CGI work helped amplify the story as the creatures unleashed from the briefcase are whimsical and fun. Specifically, a little platypus/beaver hybrid that hoards gold and other precious items and acts as comic relief for the stuffed first act. We watch as Newt hides from the Wizarding authorities of the new world yet still chases the escapees from his briefcase. All the while the shadow of something darker haunts the magic and adds a level of urgency that really hits home around the midpoint. For some, it will really slam you with the intensity and change of tone, but Fantastic Beasts does a great job at balancing both the light and dark story elements, This is one of the movie’s greatest strengths.

 

Still from "Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them", courtesy of Warner Bros.
Still from “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them”, courtesy of Warner Bros.

The midpoint is abrupt to some extent, and it is where the fun & games disappear and the bad guys close in. The all-too-familiar ministry plotline that appears in the previous Harry Potter series is revived, and it’s still something to behold and despise. This along with the continuous hunt for a few more wild creatures does make the film as a whole feel very crowded. To say this is a flaw is up to the viewer, but to me, it only aided the overall story.

 

By the third act, the two separate plotlines directly clash and form an entirely different beast. Props to the visual effects artist because the last thirty minutes is a filled with awe-inspiring CGI work. There is a plot twist at the very end as well, and it got me, but like I said before you have to really be watching for it to know before hand.

Still from "Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them", courtesy of Warner Bros.
Still from “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them”, courtesy of Warner Bros.

Overall, Fantastic Beasts may seem a little squished with all the plotlines the film introduces and tries to wrap up, but this feels like a nitpick more than a flaw. Leaving the theater I felt the same sense of wonder that the original Harry Potter books and movies inspired within me, and I couldn’t help but smile. If you’re a casual movie-goer with little experience of the Harry Potter world, you may still want to give this a shot, as I truly believe J.K. Rowling has created this generations fantasy epic. If you’re a fan like me, don’t miss this opportunity to revisit the world that inspired you to take a stick off the ground and wave it around shouting random gibberish. I implore everyone to check out Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them.

Thanks for reading, Joel Freecheck.