By Thomas Griffiths
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was directed by David Yates and stars Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Colin Farrell, Ezra Miller, Fine Frenzy and Johnny Depp. It is set over seventy years before Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone takes place and serves as a sort of prequel to the Harry Potter franchise by JK Rowling. The plot surrounds Newt Scamander, a really eccentric English wizard and magizoologist who comes to New York with a case full of magical creatures, and through a complicated set of circumstances they get released into the human world and a whole load of crazy stuff goes down.
I am an enormous fan of Harry Potter, and I absolutely adore the world that JK Rowling created in her books, and the world that was interpreted on the big screen by Christopher Columbus, Alfonso Cuaron, Mike Newell and David Yates – alongside the awesome performances of Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes and the late, great Alan Rickman. I have read every single Harry Potter book, and I am one of those people who really wants to see such a world come to life time and again, especially in the real world. Therefore, I really wanted this movie to be good, and my expectations were enhanced when I heard that Eddie Redmayne would take centre stage as the protagonist of this movie. Therefore, I was immensely pleased when all of my values and expectations for a Harry Potter film were spectacularly met.
Eddie Redmayne gives an awesome performance as Newt Scamander. I’ve seen several other films where this guy stars, including The Theory of Everything which I still consider the best performance he has ever given, and of course his spellbinding work in Les Miserables. I loved Eddie Redmayne in this movie, and this helps to continue proving that this guy is one of the most talented actors working today. His character was extremely interesting, and I really cared about him and stood behind him almost throughout the entire movie. His character development didn’t feel excessive or rushed, which impressed me, and I really enjoyed his character generally. The other performances in this movie were superb: Dan Fogler, who plays this Muggle (I know that they call them ‘No-Maj’ in this particular movie, but I’m going to continue using Muggle anyway), was fantastic, even though he didn’t have any magic. His character made up for it with being a really entertaining, well-written and supportable guy. From the moment he enters the film, I really was impressed by how relevant, compelling and realistic they made Dan Fogler’s character.
Also, Katherine Waterston was excellent, as was Fine Frenzy as her sister. Both of them gave really great performances, as did Colin Farrell, who played Percival Graves, the main villain of the film. I like Colin Farrell as an actor, and I tend to think that comedy films suit him better, but I really liked him in this movie. This is probably my favourite Colin Farrell movie so far. Ezra Miller as Credence, this young guy who is abused by the woman adopting him and who is manipulated by Graves at several points in the movie. I was actually pleased with how compelling and relatable each of these characters was made in this film.
As to the plot, I was really, really pleased with how the story progressed and how it adhered to the magical world of Harry Potter without needing to set up those films. I was surprised to find how much it didn’t need to lean on the films and books already made in order to create a cohesive story, even though there are definite nods to the books, which I will go into later on. I also adored the CGI and the special effects in this movie, especially surrounding the incredible creatures that appear throughout the course of the story – the effects and detail surrounding the Niffler and the Occamy especially were extremely impressive, and from looking at them they looked like real creatures, which I was impressed by because it wasn’t a painfully-obvious CGI-fest that it could have been. Also, there is a beast in this movie called the Thunderbird – I will not spoil its role in this movie, but I will say that this creature in particular is freaking awesome.
There are so many touching, heart-warming scenes in this film, especially surrounding the magical creatures: I won’t lie, I adored the scene where Newt Scamander introduces Dan Fogler’s character to the other magical creatures in his menagerie, and I think that the scenes between Eddie Redmayne and Katherine Waterston were really well-done. Another excellent piece of the film was James Newton Howard’s score: I really loved James Newton Howard in films like Unbreakable, and he outdid himself in this movie especially. The musical score added a lot to the movie, and helped us as an audience experience the emotions we were supposed to feel in several scenes. Yates’ direction and Newton Howard’s score helped turn this movie into an entertaining, well-created story, and JK Rowling’s story was beautifully-written.
Another reason I particularly like David Yates as a director of the Harry Potter universe is how he handles action sequences, since every time there was a chase scene or a duel or some huge battle sequence, Yates made it look amazing, almost made it look dreamlike, and the magical battles and sequences where action was used in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them were brilliant. The final battle of this movie, where this thing called the Obscurus possesses Credence and uses him to wreak all sorts of havoc in New York, and Graves tries to domesticate him so that he can use his power for himself. The ensuing battle between Newton Scamander and Graves is hugely exciting, and the eventual defeat of Graves after the Obscurus is subdued.
The twist ending of this movie is something that I was massively impressed by: The revelation that Graves is in fact the magical terrorist Gellert Grindelwald, played by Johnny Depp. Grindelwald’s presence and status as a threat was alluded to throughout the film, and he only appeared in his true form sporadically, but when he finally appears in person at the end of the film, I was on the edge of my seat because this guy’s motivations, powers and behaviour suddenly made complete sense. If you’ve read the books, you’ll know who Gellert Grindelwald is, but if you haven’t then I will not spoil it for you – I will only say that this probably isn’t the last we’ve seen of Grindelwald, since he has a huge amount of impact to make on the Harry Potter universe.
What I was most impressed with in this movie by how entertaining it could be to young people, whilst also showing some really dark elements – especially the scenes in the orphanage ran by Mary Lou Barebone (Played very well by Samantha Morton), which I was actually concerned to watch because those scenes were surprisingly unsettling – that isn’t a flaw, but I was surprised by how dark this film was prepared to be. I was happy with how these scenes intertwined with the plot of the film, and how important they became to the story. Where this movie was under threat of failing was having to set up the other films to come, and I think that it succeeded in avoiding doing this in excess – it certainly made us want more films to come afterwards, but it didn’t feel like it only existed to set up a future few films to continue this franchise.
As to flaws, I don’t have any problems with this movie in terms of pace and tone and all that, but I do think that some scenes involved certain CGI over-reliance, and the scenes with John Voight’s character were probably my least favourite part of the film, and I really didn’t like his character that much. Apart from that, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a terrific movie with great direction and script, great characters, excellent acting, a superb story and definitely compelling advancement of the world that JK Rowling created starting from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
Rating: 9/10BEST QUOTES