When I first heard that Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was going to be made into a film, I initially had some doubts. I wondered how on earth they were going to form a plot out of a fictional textbook, and I wondered how they were ever going to capture the essence of the Harry Potter series that so many of us know and adore. It’s fair to say that I was not disappointed. I had some criticisms, but on the whole I was very impressed, and for that reason thought it warranted its own blog post.
THIS REVIEW IS FULL OF SPOILERS.
I think I’ll deal with characters first of all. The character of Jacob Kowalski was undoubtedly my absolute favourite; he added such a humble and believable angle to the story that otherwise has very little for the modern muggle to relate to, and added so much humour to the plotline altogether. I was truly rooting for him throughout, and seeing him have his memories wiped at the end was far more saddening that I expected it to be; although I was thrilled when he finally got the bakery he craved! Equally, Tina Goldstein was not what I expected; I for some reason imagined her to be far more serious than she was, and was pleasantly surprised at how intelligent, powerful, but also kooky she was. Newt Scamander was perhaps the only character I was slightly disappointed with. Rather than carrying the film as its central character, I often found that he blended into the background, and had seemingly very few lines altogether. I don’t know if this is because of Eddie Redmayne’s reserved acting style; although this would go some way to explain it. I just felt that throughout the film there was very little development of his character, and that even now we know very little about him as a person. This, to an extent, made him more difficult to support as we didn’t really get a feel for who he was, or where he was going.
I think the majority of Potter fans, myself obviously included, enjoyed the nods towards the original series throughout the film. Seeing the deathly hallows symbol was the best example of this, I jumped a little bit in my seat with excitement… I honestly think that this was the best direction to go with the new franchise. The references to Hogwarts and Dumbledore also brought back some of the nostalgia from the novels, which is always a good thing. I always felt that I wanted to know more about Grindelwald’s story when reading the original novels though, as it always felt that there was a lot JK Rowling wasn’t telling us. I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t predict Grindelwald being in disguise to begin with, however as soon as Graves began his little speech about breaking the Statute of Secrecy everything clicked into place! This new premise of following Grindelwald’s rise is so, so exciting, and I can’t wait to see where the other films take it.
The thing that surprised me most with the film was, I think, how seriously dark it was. There were certainly very light and humorous moments, but overall the story had some horrifically dark themes. Credence’s story throughout is so tragic, and I was surprised that a film with such a seemingly light premise would contain themes of such abuse and suppression of factors that he could not change. Despite the fact that I don’t believe he is dead, the ‘death’ scene was so explicit, not in terms of the physicality but his tortured mental state that I was honestly taken aback by the amount of pain contained in one character. I thought the use of contrast was particularly effective here, however, as the screen was bursting with colour in Newt’s scenes, but entirely shrouded in darkness in any scenes surrounding Credence.
The main thing that I didn’t understand in the film, however, was the actual significance of the ‘fantastic beasts’. As the overarching plot of the series clearly concerns Grindelwald’s rise to power, the existence of these creatures throughout New York was almost completely irrelevant. Regardless of whether Newt’s case had been opened, the main plot points would still have occurred, and it felt slightly like they had to put the creatures in in order to fulfil the title of the film, and not for any other significant reason. What I did love was the visual effects used to create them; for the most part they appeared very believable.
Overall, I think Fantastic Beasts did live up to my expectations. I’d give it a four out of five, because, as I’ve explained, there were some elements that didn’t quite sit right with me; however these were generally outweighed by positives. In regards to where it sits in relation to The Cursed Child, I thought it was considerably better as the entirely new set of characters didn’t make for some of the more out-of-character moments you see in the play. It was funny, moving, and most importantly of all: enchantingly magical.
Let me know what you thought of Fantastic Beasts in the comments if you’ve seen it…
Have a fabulous day!