As an alternate story in the world of Hogwarts and Harry Potter, “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them” does a wonderful job of distinguishing itself from the previous movies based off of J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world.
The movie was released on Nov. 10 in New York City by Warner Bros. Pictures. Directed by David Yates, this movie was Rowling’s screenwriting debut, working off of her 2001 book of the same name. In October, Rowling announced that this movie will be followed by four more, elaborating on the buildup to the Wizarding War, which is caused by Grindelwald, the childhood friend and nemesis of Dumbledore.
The movie follows Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), the author of one of Harry’s textbooks, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” as he travels to New York City and explores the American wizarding world. With three main forces of opposition, the movie portrays ambiguity in good vs. evil and the places in between.
I found the movie to be a refreshing spin-off of the well-loved magical world. The plot line both centered on Newt’s individual story and set the groundwork for the longer story of the precursory events to the Wizarding Wars. It balanced those two objectives well, delivering the story with beautiful and breathtaking CGI. Although I found the CGI of the beasts to be stunning, what really was awe-inspiring were the displays of magic, most notably the rebuilding of shattered New York neighborhoods following the magically-induced destruction. It never felt over used, although it featured heavily in the movie.
One complaint was that the movie jumped right into action and never really let the audience take a breath. There were a few moments of peace, but even then, the underlying feeling and motion of the movie was always pushing forward and never really relaxing. For other action movies, like brand name superheroes, I would expect this, but for a movie whose main character is an anti-confrontational, anti-social wizard, it was hard to absorb all the nuances and peculiarities that this new world and this new character delivered.
Another problem was the inconsistency of setting and a lack of diverse characters. Although the movie was set in the 1920s, only hints appeared in the movie in costumes, architecture and the one speakeasy scene. Additionally, New York in the 1920s was a shifting landscape of diversity that was not reflected in the film.
However, the humor allowed pockets of carefree moments in tense scenes. Those moments worked double-duty, offering comic relief, but also a moment to take in what all had just happened.
My favorite aspect of the movie was the development of Newt. Character development for all the characters felt underdeveloped, but Redmayne does a wonderful job of portraying a socially awkward person with an affinity for beasts. I would have loved more time to understand the differences of this world and its characters.
“Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them” is a movie I would recommend seeing on the big screen, if only for the CGI. 8.3/10