Movie: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Director: David Yates
Run time: 2 hr 13 min
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Quick Synopsis: The year is 1926, and Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) has just completed a global excursion to find and document an extraordinary array of magical creatures. Arriving in New York for a brief stopover, he might have come and gone without incident, were it not for a No-Maj (American for Muggle) named Jacob, a misplaced magical case, and the escape of some of Newt’s fantastic beasts, which could spell trouble for both the wizarding and No-Maj worlds.
My Review: Okay, first a little story time. I don’t recall exactly how I felt when I first heard the news about this movie trilogy (now 5-part series) that was going to follow a seemingly unimportant, minor character in the Harry Potter universe. I guess I was excited, partly because Jo was writing the screenplay, partly because Eddie Redmayne was cast as the lead, and partly because it meant more wizarding world material. But there was another part of me that also really didn’t care too much. I know. I hate admitting it. But it was the truth. I was preoccupied by the release of The Cursed Child, and when that came out and I was left unimpressed and disappointed, I wasn’t super keen to get another possibly “out there” story.
The trailers for the film certainly intrigued me, but I didn’t get excited until very close to the actual release date. Maybe a few weeks before. And that was all due to the soundtrack and merchandise, honestly. But even still, I wasn’t counting down the days and jumping up and down beforehand. However, like the loyal fan I am, I still bought myself a shirt and went out to see this movie on opening night as per tradition. To put it simply, here’s what happened: Every single low expectation I had was shattered. I fell instantly and deeply in love with these new characters (particularly Newt himself), and by the end of the film I was kicking myself for ever having doubted Jo and her plan. I went from mildly interested to annoyingly obsessed in the span of two hours and thirteen minutes. Sorry, Jo. Never again, I promise. But enough about that. Here’s what I loved about Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, broken up into sections.
C H A R A C T E R S & C A S T
The cast of this movie could not have been more perfect. Period. I had never seen Eddie Redmayne in anything before this, but when he was first cast, I just knew he would be great. And oh, he was. It’s very clear that he threw himself headfirst into playing his role. Newt was beyond anything I hoped for; I haven’t fallen so in love with a character so quickly in a long time. After watching this, I feel that nobody else could have done Newt justice the way Eddie did. And while Eddie really shined in this film, the rest of the cast was fantastic as well. I know myself and others were extremely hesitant about this new group of actors coming into a world we know and love so well (for good reason). There’s always that fear that they won’t live up to the hype, they won’t give a good enough voice to their characters, they won’t appreciate the world and the fans and everything that comes with being a part of the Potterverse. But this cast has none of those issues. Just hearing them all talk about their characters and this story fills me with so much joy because it’s clear that they all not only love what they’re doing, but they also understand their characters and respect J.K. Rowling completely. It’s wonderful to see, and it made me super inclined to welcome them into the family and love them just as I did the cast of the original Potter films.
The same worries I mentioned could also apply to experiencing new characters, all of whom are so different than any of the characters we see in the original movies. Firstly, we are used to our favorite protagonists being teenagers. They’re in a different setting in a different time period with different goals and challenges. However, I found I cared just as much about what happened to this new cast of characters and was just as invested in their journeys. Newt Scamander has completely stolen my heart. He’s awkward and not great with people, but he’s extremely loving when it comes to his creatures. That bond he has with his creatures touched me in a way I never could have predicted. And Newt as an individual touched me in a similar, unexpected way. Let’s just say I have been obsessing over him ever since, and anyone who has a bad thing to say about him can take it somewhere else, because I refuse to hear it. Tina and Queenie were so opposite, and yet they were both strong and compassionate and likable. And, of course, Jacob. He had so much heart and depth, and he really gave a new perspective on how we view Muggles (or, No-Majs) within a world that’s so full of magic. I adore this foursome.
P L O T
I went into this movie expecting a fun, magical chase between the characters and the escaped creatures, but it ended up being so much more than that. It was darker and more moving than I anticipated, and it also dealt with complex issues concerning magic vs. no magic and friendship and acceptance. In those ways, I felt the connection between this film and the Potter films, and I could understand how they could depict the same (yet vastly different) worlds. I don’t want to give anything away, but the film heavily hints at future movies involving events that we know happen, but that we don’t actually get to see in detail within the HP books or movies. However, if the plot does go the way I think it will, I don’t see how Newt and co. are going to play as big of a role which would make me really sad. Regardless of all that, I did really enjoy the plot and direction of this first installment, and as Jo’s first time delving into screenwriting, I thought it went well. I know some people had a problem with pacing, but I was so invested that I didn’t even notice that. I’d even go as far as to say I actually thought the pacing was perfect. I loved that the plot was so layered and there was a lot going on, yet it didn’t feel overstuffed or too ambitious. We get to see the relationship between No-Majs and Wizards, a rocky, uncertain thing. We also get to see the affects of abuse and the repercussions that are the result of preventing someone from expressing themselves or letting them be who they were born to be. It’s heart-breaking. Amidst all of this darkness and self-discovery, the chase to find Newt’s creatures is humorous and surprisingly touching. Overall, this film still had that special magical feel that we all love from the Potter movies. I felt right at home once again. And it felt so good. But that’s about all I can say on plot without giving too much away.
S C O R E
I briefly mentioned above that the score is what finally sparked any real excitement in me before I saw the movie, and I have to say it remains one of my favorite aspects of the film. I am so beyond in love with this score. I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ve been listening to it practically non-stop since it was released, and yet I just seem to keep falling more and more in love with it. It has similarities to the Potter scores, but it also definitely stands apart from them. I don’t know – there’s just something so beautiful and refreshing about each of the pieces. There are a couple scenes in particular where the music just really makes everything come together, and I found myself getting highly emotional. I haven’t purchased a physical copy of a soundtrack or CD in years, but the moment I first listened to this score all the way through, I knew I needed a physical copy. I really just have no words. Well done to James Newton Howard for this stunning music which really did add so much to the overall movie experience.
F I N A L T H O U G H T S
I know that the differences between this franchise and the Harry Potter franchise might be throwing people off or may not be as appealing to some. I thought I was going to fit into that category as well, but I was oh so pleasantly surprised. I guess I just hope that if this wasn’t your favorite movie from the wizarding world, you give it a second watch to see if anything changes. I honestly liked it even more the second time. If that doesn’t work, maybe consider that this is only the first of five films and that set-up can be tricky. But also, I do understand why some fans will be hesitant about liking this movie, and I understand that maybe it’ll take some warming up before people feel comfortable within this specific world and with these specific characters. On the other hand, I can’t help but get super defensive whenever I hear critiques of the characters whom I adore with all my heart. I never expected to get so defensive over Newt, Tina, Queenie, and Jacob. No, they’re not quite up there with the trio, and no the plot isn’t nearly as phenomenal as Harry’s. However, they really are pretty close. And as a movie, I do like it better than some of the Potter films. Yes, I’m going to buy all the merch. Yes, I’m going to eagerly anticipate the next films. Yes, I’m going to defend Newt and Co. to the end. And yes, I’m going to watch every single cast interview. I had my doubts beforehand. Now? I’m one thousand percent all in, and I have no desire to come out of this pit of feels and joy. And all I want to do is go watch this for a third time. Jo, you’ve done it again.
My Rating: 5/5 stars
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Have you seen Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them yet? I’d love to hear your spoiler-free thoughts down below!
Until next time,