By Jonathan Trojan (Kingston, PA, US)

 

Being the first installment in a five-movie series, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them sets new ground for the Wizarding World as we explore new characters and a whole new era altogether.

Around 70 years before Harry Potter saves the world of witches and wizards, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) goes to New York in hopes of getting transport to Arizona, where he plans to set one of his “fantastic” beasts loose. But things go awry when some beasts escape Newt’s suitcase and scatter all over the city. The wizard soon joins forces with a muggle named Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), Porpentina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), and her sister Queenie (Alison Sudol) to journey out and re-capture the escaped beasts. But things soon take a dark turn when they realize there is a greater plot at hand that can decide the fate of the both the Wizarding World and the muggle world.

Being a massive “Potterhead,” I went into this film expecting greatness. And was I let down? Just a tad. But then I went two more times and now I think the film is amazing! Of course the film has flaws, but overall the film does what it needed to do: Start a new series of movies whilst keeping the viewer entertained.

An important element in both the Harry Potter novels and movies were the characters. The interactions and chemistry between the characters are some of the main reasons why everyone loves this franchise so much. And that carries over into this film. The characters in this film are all lovable, well the main four at least. Newt Scamander is one of my favorite wizards now. This is mostly due to the fact that I can relate to him in many ways, one of them being that we’re both Hufflepuffs! But the other characters surprised me as well, especially Jacob Kowalski, who is played brilliantly by Dan Folger! The Goldstein sisters were also really cool, with Queenie being my favorite of the two. Of course we have to have our supporting cast. First off, Ezra Miller did an absolutely fantastic job portraying a troubled young man. He was one of the standouts of the film alongside Redmayne and Folger. Colin Farrell’s character was a tad underwritten, but was beautifully portrayed by the actor.

The story is one of the weaker points of the film. If you’re a good novelist, that doesn’t always mean you’re a good screenplay writer, and I believe Rowling proved that. Now I am not saying that she writes horribly. J.K. Rowling writes beautifully and I love her writing style and her structure. But that doesn’t always transfer well to scripts. I feel that this movie should have been two films. There should have been one all about the beast hunting and another about Grindelwald and his plans. I felt that when the dark elements starting pouring in, it didn’t mix well with the other elements and we’re left with two story lines merged into one film.

Another weak point of the film would be the abundant amount of CGI that was used. You can say that it is reasonable since it’s a movie about hunting beasts and magic, but then I look at the other Harry Potter films and see that it is entirely possible to have practical effects. Now I am not against them using CGI. But they used it too much and I felt that it was kind of lazy of them to do that.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is, in my opinion, an amazing movie that is filled with wonderful characters and originality. While it does suffer from poor writing and overused CGI, the characters and world-building that this film introduced surely makes you forget those negatives. So in conclusion, this installment in this ever-growing franchise is surely one you won’t want to miss.

Rating: 4/5

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