I’ll be the first to admit that I was never the biggest Harry Potter fan, I certainly appreciated some aspects of the films and I was always amazed by the imagination of J.K. Rowling but I never got the buzz around it that everyone else did. The aspect I probably enjoyed most about the series though was the creatures featured throughout. Whether it was three headed dogs, armies of giant spiders or petrifying snakes I always enjoyed the movies most when Harry and co were fighting off these ‘Fantastic Beasts’. Therefore news of a film based on said creatures was rather exciting for me and I was hoping I could get the buzz I never quite got with the original series here with ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’.
Set before the time of many of the characters we know and love from the novels and films ‘Fantastic Beasts’ introduces audiences to a whole host of new wizards, witches and muggles (or No-Majs if you’re American!). Filling Daniel Radcliffe’s magical shoes as the lead here was Oscar winning actor Eddie Redmayne who plays Newt Scamander. It was so refreshing to see Redmayne in a more blockbuster role, he’s a very talented actor but the more awards heavy films he’s starred in recently haven’t been a whole lot of fun so it was great to see him in this. As a result I think this is probably my favourite performance of his to date and certainly one of his most likeable roles, easily more endearing than Harry ever was as a main character! There is a wide range of other new characters too, some work very well whilst others don’t. The standouts apart from Redmayne’s Scamander would be Jacob Kowalski, Percival Graves & Credence Barebone played by Dan Fogler, Colin Farrell and Ezra Miller. Everyone will have their favourites though and thankfully there are enough quality characters to make up for the less interesting ones.
Of course alongside the cast and characters come the ‘Fantastic Beasts’ themselves, although I have to be truthful and say I was a little disappointed with this aspect of the film. For many of the creatures that appear in the film I found that I wasn’t so fond of their design and none really rivaled anything from the original Potter series. However, I can’t fault the CGI and the scenes which feature the beasts are often quite playful which was enjoyable but I just didn’t feel like enough was made of the premise and more spectacle could have been achieved.
The narrative takes no time in getting started which was definitely a plus and for the most part it’s a fairly simply one; beasts escape, capture beasts. It was a shame that inbetween the action sequences of these magical creatures running wild across New York the film’s pace slowed way down. I think this was a result of the dull dialogue that our characters are too often given and unfortunately in a few instances this caused some slight boredom. Although I didn’t care for much of the content of this storyline there is another narrative taking place in the New York setting before and during the beasts escape which I much preferred. This storyline was full of mystery and intrigue and featured many of the more interesting characters. I liked how both narratives combined to become one as well. However, saying that the ending was a little dragged out and over sentimental for my liking but most will probably lap it up. Throughout the film the narrative often includes references to aspects of the wizarding world that many will already be familiar with and clues to what is to come next in this new series, these small details are dispersed nicely and the fans will really appreciate this.
The first chapter of the next stage in J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world is now complete and she can be proud of what she has achieved. Herself and director David Yates have successfully rebooted the series and in the process will hopefully entertain a whole new generation of fans. Despite the slightly missed opportunity with the main premise, some uninteresting characters and a few pacing issues ‘Fantastic Beasts’ is an otherwise very enjoyable opener to this new series. It’s worth remembering that this is the first in this new series and I’m sure the next films will very much build on what has been laid down as foundations here, after all whose favourite Harry Potter film is ‘The Philosopher’s Stone’?
Rating – 7.5/10
Question: What is your favourite creature from a Harry Potter film/novel?
(Leave your answers in the comments section below!)
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