REVIEW – FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM

It’s as if you’ve been greeted with a warm hug from an old friend. Yes. It was that good. Several things make me say this. The first, it is a stand alone from the Harry Potter series and, it works! I’m not saying other franchises failed in this goal, but this corner/period of the Wizarding World was captured in a way that made me fall in love with the era. The second point. It is quite rare, for me to come across a film in which I love every character, or more so the way each character was portrayed. Every actor did a superb job. It was as if I was a fly on the wall, observing the lives of these beings. Oh but wait! I wasn’t exactly a fly on the wall, no, no, no, I was immersed in the world, thanks to the wonderful advancement in technology we know as 3D.

Normally, I’m not the greatest of fans when it comes to 3D, except for when it’s done well. And let me tell you, it was done well in Fantastic Beasts. Never, never, never have I ever thought in a 3D film, that the object was actually hurtling towards me. Let me tell you that changed last night. I actually jumped back in my seat, and twice on occasion went to duck. Yes, it was that good. I flinched so many times too, as the objects flew past me. Well done. A true feat, especially in making it look real and authentic. With so many other films, it’s all digital and feels more like a video game rather than that reality. So for these reasons I’d recommend 3D*.

I was so worried going into the film, that perhaps it wouldn’t meet my expectations, but oh how wrong was I. The effects worked so well into the film, I barely noticed obvious special effects. You would have thought, ‘oh well that’s normal’, all the animals or should I say Fantastic Beasts were added with skill that would match Dumbledore. Expertly done. The magic is still there. The world created on screen is one that completely envelopes you. It’s almost as if another dimension has opened up in front of you. The production, again, created amazing sets, from the New York street scapes and subway tunnels, to the internal structure of the Magical Congress of the United States of America all constructed with precision and great detail. My favourite structure was within the suitcase. It appears to us in the form of a workshop and worksite within the case. Where Newt researches and practices his craft. It made me want my own suitcase, full of lovely little areas like that.

I loved the way the film opened, first with the introduction of “the main threat” and then the more “immediate threat”. The introduction of each character was achieved in a great way. Fitting perfectly into the situation and pretty much how you would encounter others on a journey. The main ones stay and contribute, add to your story, and that’s exactly what was achieved here. Another aspect of the film I loved was the fact it reminded me of one of my all time favourite comedies What’s Up Doc? also a Warner Bros. film. Whether it was intentional or not, I loved it!

Eddie Redmayne plays the role of Newt Scamander incredibly well. I love the dynamic created between the whole foreigner travels to new a new land and has to acclimatise to the differences. His relationships between the other wizards and No Majs as well as the beasts really created this sense of ease and familiarness. Rather than feeling like we’re on the outside looking in, there was this warmth to the way Redmayne portrayed the character that drew us in. I suppose it’s true what they say about Hufflepuffians, (yep, probably just made that term up) kind.

One of my favourite scenes is where Newt is trying to catch one of his Fantastic Beasts and transforms in the form of body language. You’ll know the part when you watch the movie. I was honestly thinking, there’s another Oscar on the horizon for Redmayne. It may come across as if I’m joking, but honestly my drama teacher would be so proud, I was proud and had nothing to do with that scene. I just think he performed brilliantly. It just goes to show, the level Newt goes to, not just to protect his animals, but to understand them.

Dan Fogler as Jacob Kowalski worked so well with Redmayne. The chemistry as friends really works. Loved the introduction scene, I couldn’t help but think about how I would react in that situation. Also the fact that within that plotline, smaller subplots existed, that ultimately played into the bigger picture. Another one of my favourite scenes between the two is when they journey into the suitcase and Newt introduces Jacob to all the animals. We are Jacob, we’re learning all about them too. In this part I was also thinking about what a strong powerful message this sends to the world about the preservation and rehabilitation of animals. I couldn’t help but think of our own Australia Zoo in QLD and how incredible their work actually is. This scene inspired me, as I’m sure it did to many others.

Which then brings us to Katherine Waterston who plays the role of Porpentina Goldstein. She is an agent for the Magical Congress of the US and her character is quite different in contrast to others, as she gives us levels of emotions, most directed towards Redmayne. And whilst there’s a hint of a possible romance in the film, the levels of emotion I’m talking about are again, based around her relationships with characters. For example at first she and Newt get off on the wrong foot. Tensions ease and then flare up again. Then there’s the ‘aha’ moment and we’re there. On the flip side, we see her softer, kinder side when she interacts with her sister and Credence.

Alison Sudol portrays that sister Queenie Goldstein. The sisters are two sides of a coin. Different, but all in all complete. As most sisters are. There’s one particular special difference between Queenie and all other wizards. She has a special ability that enables her to read minds. Can I just say, these scenes are the best. The part where she’s at the dinner table, flirting with Jacob, when her sister communicates with her via mind, when Queenie hones in on some home truths with Newt. All really lovely scenes that again, create a great flow to the story. Every facet of the tale is complete. From what I could tell, there were no holes. I love that. It’s such a pleasure to see. I’m sitting here thinking, how does Rowling create these compelling stories?

Enter Ezra Miller as Credence. Ezra Miller was a standout. I felt for his character, and you know what, considering certain circumstances we were at first led to believe you think, hmm is that ok. But here we touch on important matters. Such as influences. Another outsider form. However for Credence he can’t escape this label. No matter what world he is a part of; others see him as an outsider. That’s why I found the scenes where Credence, Newt and Queenie are together, so lovely. A lot is happening in these scenes, but the way the three created this feeling of hope, really stayed with me.

Colin Farrell as Percival Graves. Yes, he plays the role well. This is probably one of my favourite Farrell performances. He did a great job creating different layers of his character. Morphing to suit different people and different situations. You’re somewhat baffled by the thought, are we seeing the real Percival Graves, which one is the real one? Like the scene where he first meets up with Credence, he seemed so sincere, genuine, almost loving and then he goes and chases after Newt on the defensive. Farrell did well in creating contrast, and I’d like to add, like Redmayne, he worked with his costume. It actually reminded me of Alan Rickman and the way he transformed with his attire. That cape walking away from Harry, Ron and Hermione is such an iconic scene, I couldn’t help but think about it during certain moments with Graves.

I also have to mention just how witty and downright funny certain parts of the film were. Dan Fogler, perfect comedic timing combined with physicality. There were moments where something important was happening and you’d see Jacob in the background staring in amazement, or whilst a couple are fighting you have Jacob trying to stand up after he’s been injured. I think that also comes down to the script. J.K. Rowling not only created a new fascinating world, and a fantastic journey, she’s added elements that we’re naturally drawn to. The humour being the most important. One particular scene had me in stitches. Where Jacob says to Newt, “ At least I know this is real, because I know my mind isn’t smart enough to imagine this all.” Gold.

Whilst yes, there are certain undertones within the film that reflect life and situations we experience, primarily being an outcast and the way in which that impacts us. There are several forms of it in the film. And one particular line follows a very abusive track. The way in which this was achieved had great impact. A belt. Every time you heard Credence unbuckling his belt, darkness fell. One particular scene stands out to me most, the part where Credence and his mother are on the stairs and he hands her his belt as they walk up the stairs. The camera angles here created such a story, that whilst you didn’t see the abuse, you knew through the foreshadowing. It’s interesting to make note that this was outside of the Wizarding World, yet impacted many facets.

I love that Rowling treats her audiences equally, that she addresses certain topics in a way that speak to generations across the board in a way that stays with us. It’s so similar to the way moments from the Harry Potter series have stayed with us. I also love the references to the different things we are already aware of, such as the manual Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, as well as Dumbledore. Oh and a Lestrange (Zoe Kravitz) connection there.

You know it’s a good film when you’re shocked at several points of the film (there are three points at the end where you’re just sitting in your chair gobsmacked –although I did guess one). And when you turn to the person you’re with a couple of times throughout the film to say something all excited, contemplating, making connections and trying to figure out what happens next. This is the film you’ll see in cinemas roughly 10 times, eventually buy on DVD and watch a thousand times. Dissecting each moment and relieving the magic over and over again. I’m going to go watch it again tonight. Which is why I’ve given it the rating below.

Rating: 4.5/5

☆☆☆☆ 1/2

Also, make sure you check out my spoiler review, to be uploaded soon. I need to discuss this film in great detail, so if you’ve seen the film, or are a cinema-rebel and go against the grain, stay tuned.

*I will also be watching it in 2D.

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