“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” is the latest magical adventure from the mind of J.K. Rowling. Pulling from the same universe as her massively popular “Harry Potter” series, “Fantastic Beasts” promises a journey full of friendship, magic, and fun. It’s also the start of a supposed five film series. However, it has a definite difference in tone and locale, marking it as a big departure from the magical castle of Hogwarts. Does “Fantastic Beasts” reinvigorate the magic we once found in the Potter-world? Let’s take a closer look and find out.
The main narrative of the film follows Newt Scamander (played by Eddie Redmayne), an English wizard arriving in New York for the first time. Taking place in the 1920’s, the film has a distinct color palette of grays and browns. This makes the intense visuals of the magic more impressive, but I found the overall visual tone to be a bit drab. Newt Scamander is a collector of magical beasts; a veterinarian of sorts. He captures them and rehabilitates them, even creatures viewed as dangerous by the rest of the wizarding world.
In addition, the film has several sub-plots running at once. This is both a positive and a negative, as the film explores some interesting territory but struggles with pacing along the way. The bulk of the film revolves around rescuing some beasts that have escaped Newt’s enchanted briefcase. Throughout his adventure, Newt befriends some extremely likable characters. My favorite being Kowalski (played by Dan Folger), the no-magic muggle who finds himself in the middle of a magical world he knows nothing about. Joined by the “wizard cop” Tina (played by Katherine Waterson), the trio embark on a trip around New York to round up the missing beasts.
Amidst this adventure there are sub plots involving dark magic, some politics about non-magical people and wizards, and more. While the dark magic takes up most of the sub screen time (and I’m keeping this vague to avoid spoilers), it’s a storyline that I felt could’ve been pushed to a future film. Actors like Colin Farrell and Ezra Miller shine bright in these scenes, but they lack the emotional punch necessary for me to become invested.
Visually speaking, the movie looks great. Some of the scenes were a bit obvious with CGI, but besides a few glaring instances, the film maintains the illusion of reality well. It’s easy to suspend your disbelief, even when massive monsters are flying through the streets. It’s a combination of actor direction and visual prowess, one that I expected from director David Yates. Besides the aforementioned depressing color palette, the film looks bright and colorful when it needs to. I wish they would’ve made the majority of the film a bit more colorful, but that’s a personal preference.
Overall, “Fantastic Beasts” is a fun adventure that’s great for the whole family. While some scenes might come off as boring or slow, the majority is enjoyable and fun. The biggest drawback is the lack of focus when concerning subplots. This leads to some pretty bad pacing, but the film manages to succeed despite these flaws. “Fantastic Beasts” didn’t really wrap me back up in the magical world of wizards like “Harry Potter” did, but it came close. Honestly, considering the comparison, that makes it pretty good in my opinion. If you’re interested in the film or liked the “Harry Potter” franchise, it’s definitely worth seeing.
I award “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” a “B”.
I award “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” a 8/10.
I award “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” 4/5 stars.