Alright so now that you’ve had a few days to get out and see the long-anticipated addition to J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Yates:2016), I think it’s safe for me to say my piece. And if you haven’t seen it yet, get yourself out to a cinema and watch it. Please. I’ve already had time to see it twice, what have you been doing?
Rowling’s wondrous world transports us back to New York in the 1920s, where one Newt Scamander arrives, armed with his precious case. A case filled with magical creatures. But how can you keep all those creatures in a case, I hear you ask? The answer is, you can’t, even with a little bit of magic, as Newt finds out when they begin to escape. Chaos ensues as Newt and co. try to round up all of his creatures before something happens to them, or anyone else.
Yeah, we know all that from the trailer, can we talk about the film now? Well, it would be my pleasure…
Now there’s a small part of me that feels quite precious about the beloved Harry Potter franchise. It’s all homegrown in Britain (okay, apart from Warner Bros. involvement in the films, but you know what I mean), and it’s been like our baby. “Look what we’ve done with this, look how it’s captivated the world.” Something huge has come out of a (mostly) non-American production. We’re proud of that, and I for one feel a little reluctant to let it move across to America now, however interesting it might be to see the wizarding world across The Pond.
But that aside, what did I think of Fantastic Beasts? I thought it was magical (pun 100% intended). It was pretty much exactly what I wanted it to be, and I think that’s largely down to J.K. Rowling’s extensive involvement in the production – she knows what her audience loves.
I thought that Eddie Redmayne was the perfect choice for Newt Scamander, and he played the part so so well. The quirks he brought to the character were endearing, and if you notice them, they tell a lot about Newt. And Dan Fogler was the wonderfully wide-eyed Jacob Kowalski, who brilliantly came on board as the audience’s vehicle to discovering the world of Fantastic Beasts, perfectly injected with comedy. Katherine Waterstone and Alison Sudol played the two central female characters with charm, both in their own ways, and I particularly liked the latter’s character. I have to give a nod to Carmen Ejogo as the President of the Magical Congress of the United States of America, who is supporting equality of gender, race, and religion – although part of me can’t help but feel it was an obvious move, and one which says “look we’re supporting minorities” rather than suggesting “look this character happens to be a minority”. Special mention also to Ezra Miller, who is excellent at portraying your psychopathic characters; I wonder how he got that gig…? [See: We Need to Talk About Kevin (Ramsay:2011).]
And would this really be a relevant post if we didn’t talk about some of those beloved magical creatures? Firstly, the Niffler. What a little bundle of fun and cuteness … and probably jewels as well. He’s got a cute little face and a mischievous nature – what more could you possibly want to engage an audience with this guy? If anyone has ever happened upon a Niffler, please let me know, because I want to adopt one. Tomorrow.
He’s not the only creature I’ve fallen in love with either. Newt’s stick-insect-like Bowtruckle, the ape-like Demiguise, the gorgeous Mooncalfs Jacob feeds, and of course the Thunderbird named Frank, have all taken my fancy. Especially the Mooncalfs.
The story of the film itself was just as engaging as I’d expected it to be. While maybe it wasn’t flawless, and I’ve already seen some downgrading reviews, none of that mattered. Because when you’re there, watching, immersed in this familiar and yet new magical world, you just want to know more about it. I’m still wanting to know more! Who is Leta Lestrange? Why does Newt walk with that tiny limp? What happened with the other Obscurus in Africa? What’s next for Grindelwald?
And that leads me nicely to this: my only criticism of the film. The ‘big reveal’. (Okay so if you’ve made it this far down the post without watching, definitely don’t read this next part.) For me, it didn’t work. Because I already knew the real identity of Graves. My gripe is with the designers, and more specifically, whoever was in charge of hair. I had seen Colin Farrell in the trailer, with his funny hair. Everyone did. And then as soon as we saw the little section at the start, with a glimpse of someone with blonde, funny hair, then there were the headlines about the whereabouts of Grindelwald, it didn’t take much to match up the hairstyles and realise who he was disguising himself as. But frustratingly enough, the reveal would’ve worked really well if the hair hadn’t been such a huge giveaway. And that was kinda disappointing.
But overall, I loved Fantastic Beasts!! I thought it was really magical. The creatures were stunning, the comedy was spot on, the music was captivating. I loved it. And I can’t wait to see what comes with the follow-up films.