Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016) Review

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Summary: The adventures of writer Newt Scamander in New York’s secret community of witches and wizards seventy years before Harry Potter reads his book in school.
So anyone who knows me knows that I love Harry Potter, pretty much everything surrounding Harry Potter. I even ran a fan forum site for quite a long time, various ones. My latest one ran for about four years. Anyway, when I heard about this movie, I was curious more than excited. I of course know about the book on which it’s loosely based as it’s a textbook and not an actual novel. So I was excited about it and at the same time I was like meh. But I wasn’t going to pass any type of judgement before I saw it. But below are my thoughts on the film.
Pros:
Cast and Characters.
  • Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander. Eddie Redmayne is a great actor. Newt is adorable and awkward and sometimes he comes off really strange. I’m not sure whose idea that was but Eddie pulls it off, almost too well to the point where I kind of cringed lol. He’s very soft spoken, he kind of walks a bit hunched but that’s just his personality. He’s loyal to his beasts and his friends and I liked his whole vibe. I can see why he’d say people thought he was annoying but I think he’s endearing more than annoying. I’d listen to him teach about the beasts. I liked that when he was being brave outside of his actions, his face showed a different emotion, like he was trying to be brave but he was nervous about being brave. He’s eccentric and introverted and he’s just so interesting. I hope he’s in the later films.
  • Katherine Waterson as Tina Goldstein. An American witch, she is grounded “down to earth” and desperate to get back to the position she was in before. She witnesses Newt trying to get back his Niffler and tries to take charge but she’s only treated like a reject. She is very much rule orientated and a lot of times that gets in the way of what’s trying to be accomplished and she has to learn how to be a more flexible. I liked her enough, I don’t think she was all that interesting as a whole but there were interesting parts. The actress is British and I thought her American accent was believable, being that it’s 1926 in New York that helps because the twang is slightly accented, at least to my North Carolinian ears lol.
  • Dan Folger as Jacob Kowalski. He is a muggle or nomaj (American word), who works in a cannery but he wants to be a baker. He is accidentally exposed to magic and brought into this whole thing which helps build a nice friendship with Newt, which I think is one of the strongest aspects of the film. He’s funny, a bit charismatic, he kind of reminds me of Jack Black just not as funny or over the top. I liked that he even though it was all so weird, that he stuck it out and stayed by Newt’s side, a willing participant. There are some emotional things with him though. I liked the way Folger portrayed him, he wasn’t a bumbling idiot like he could have been, he may have been a little “silly” but what muggle wouldn’t be when dealing with magical elements, outside of immediately finding them cool.
  • Alison Sudol as Queenie Goldstein. I actually really liked her and I wanted a bit more of her. She is Tina’s younger sister, a legilimens, which helps her kookiness, she is a free spirit in the way she talks and presents herself. Also very kind with a big heart, she takes to Kowalski pretty easily and I feel like she would have a great friendship with Newt but we don’t see them interact with him enough but I wanted it. I liked her interactions with Kowalski, so cute.
  • Ezra Miller as Credence Barebone. I love Ezra Miller, I think he is a great young actor and I’m glad he’s being in more films. I think he was a little standout in here even though he wasn’t in it that that much. He’s part of the “Second Salemers”, his adoptive mother is the leader and he’s just hunched over, quiet, kind of mysterious and weird. He’s working with Graves to an extent (not going to give much away there) and he was just so interesting. His whole story was interesting but… it was a lot.
  • Colin Farrell as Percival Graves. He is a high ranking Auror, almost seems like the Magical President’s right hand man. He was also an interesting character, mysterious, kind of a closet mean person. I think Farrell was great in this role, where you want to be on his side but at the same time you’re unsure at his overall plans.
  • Other Characters. There are a lot of characters in this movie, as per a Harry Potter world film. I’m not even going to begin to talk about them all but all of the characters were handled well enough I’d say, as this is going to be the start of more films, characters like the President better be more prominent. Zoe Kravitz had a cameo lol, I would like to see some flashbacks lol.
The costumes. Colleen Atwood is amazing. I always love the costumes for movies she does,  I knew she did the costumes here too. I think she has a certain style that she manages to keep even though she does it for the atmosphere of the film. Newt’s jacket alone is amazing. I loved Carmen Ejogo’s entire look, same with Queenie. I just think she does such a great job. They’re always so lovely.
The Fantastic Beasts. The animation on them… wow. A bowtruckle is a tree guardian that looks like a little twig man, oh my goodness, so cute. I love Newt’s relationship with Pickett, it’s just so cute. The demiguise is a beast that can turn invisible, also adorable. Erumpent is an elephant/rhino like creature that has some pretty funny moments in the film. Niffler is a little fur ball that likes shiny things, he also brings in a lot of laughs and I love the animation on his expressions and movements. Occamy is a snake like creature with wings… it’s so pretty, the only snake I like. Swooping Evil is a bird like creature and I love how Newt uses him in the film. Thunderbird is my favorite, similar to a griffin, they have the ability to control the weather, their rain even wipes memories. Handy.
The connections. Of course with films like this, I love when there are hints to the Harry Potter world we know. There is a lot of information out there thanks to the books, Pottermore etc but the fact this new HP themed movie keeps all of that in mind just made me smile. Newt’s love of Hogwarts (he’s a Hufflepuff), the mention of Albus Dumbledore, Gellert Grindlewald, the Lestrange family, the Ministry and the nods to the future textbook that Newt is going to write respectively. I love it all.
The relationships. I mostly liked Newt’s relationships with Kowalski and the creatures. His friendship with the muggle was cute because it started off a little rocky and it was subtle but I think it was evident that Newt really cared for him. Not to mention, his relationships with the creatures. I wanted to see a nice friendship with him and Queenie and I’m glad that while it was going into a romantic relationship with Tina, it didn’t end on one. That allows for them to spend more time together. I also was interested in Credence and Graves’ relationship but again, there was so much going on in this film, I don’t think that connection was fleshed out as well as it could have been.
The musical score. James Newton Howard (Pretty Woman, My Girl, Space Jam lol, The Dark Knight) wrote the music for this film and there are some hints of Hedwig’s theme in there but otherwise it’s original stuff. I really liked it.
The story. Now I’m going to talk about another side of this later but I liked the story. Newt makes a stop off in New York on his way to Arizona to free his Thunderbird but because that pesky Niffler escapes, he ends up having an adventure he wasn’t expecting to have in New York. That’s cute, it’s simple but it allows for some fun. However, there’s other things going on, something is destroying parts of New York and without giving it away… it makes for a bit more of a layered story. It’s fresh compared to the Harry Potter story we’ve come to know and love which makes it fun!
The Magic. I love magic.
Cons:
Overcrowded. I think the movie is cool and I liked it but I think there is just way too much going on. I know it’s going to be expanded with four more films which is fine but I think there’s a lot going on here that it could have waited for the sequel.
Slow in some parts. Even though there is a lot going on in this film, there are a lot of places where the film lags. The pace slows and a few times it lost my attention which never happens to me in a movie, especially a Harry Potter like film.
Lacks Heart. I don’t know what it was but I felt like this movie lacked the depth it should have had. It had a lot in it that I enjoyed but overall, a lot of what makes Harry Potter great is the heart and while Harry and Newt are vastly different, there’s just something missing about this film. It’s supposed to be the first of a string of films but it just got bogged down by trying to set up other films that the heart got lost. I think this is also why I got a little bored in there too. There are really no stakes, especially emotional ones.
Overall, I enjoyed Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them but I don’t think it’s of the same caliber of the previous Harry Potter movies and I’m saying that strictly as a film series and not as book adaptations. I liked the characters enough, especially Newt Scamander and Kowalski, everyone else were likable enough but almost unnecessary. I could much rather watch Scamander finding and rescuing/catching these beasts (which is what I thought it was about) than what the end result turned out to be. I feel like this film missed the mark of becoming the beloved start and “revival” but I mean, it’s fine I guess.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Have you seen Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them? Did you like it? Do you agree with my rating? Disagree? Let me know in the comments below.
Which is your favorite Harry Potter film?
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