Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

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Overview

Genre: Fantasy, Action, Adventure
Rated: M 
Release date: 17 November, 2016 (Australia)
Director: David Yates
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Colin Farrell, Ezra Miller


Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them takes us on an exciting adventure throughout New York city in 1926. During this time, magical disturbances to the regular world threatens to cause war between wizards and “no-majs” (American for muggles, that is, non-magical people). These disturbances are caused by beasts that escape from an enchanted suitcase carried by magizoologist, Newt Scamander, Grindelwald the dark wizard, and a mysterious force. The film explores the interrelation amongst the concepts of ignorance, discrimination, fear, and violence, notably by alluding to the Salem Witch Trials, which began in Massachusetts, USA, in 1692.

Goosebumps sweep over my whole body, as the Harry Potter theme song plays in the opening scene.

Fantastic Beasts is a prequel to the Harry Potter book series by J.K. Rowling, who debuts her role as a screenwriter with this film. The film documents some important events leading up to the publishing of Scamander’s book, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which would later become a required text for first-year students of Hogwarts. It contains vital information about a wide range of magical beasts, their significance, and muggle awareness of them.

Pros

Fantastic Beasts treats Harry Potter fans to the political and cultural experience of an American magical community, which differs greatly to the English magical community that we’re familiar with. The best thing about the film is its visual special effects. In particular, we are given a spectacular tour inside of Newt’s suitcase, which holds a zoo full of remarkable beasts. In this scene, the camera pans smoothly across various beasts in their natural habitats, as Newt walks through a desert, rainforest, and snowy environment like sets on a film stage. The beasts themselves are fascinating. They all have unique personalities and appearances that make it difficult for Newt and his team to find them throughout New York. For example, monkey-like beasts called demiguises, as shown below, have the ability to appear invisible.

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The film’s complexity with its multiple subplots will make you pay careful attention in order to properly understand the story. There’s a lot that goes on in this fast-paced action film that sets up its sequels. Through Twitter, J.K. Rowling has confirmed that there will be five films to the Fantastic Beasts series.

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Fantastic Beasts teases us with a photo of a mysterious new character to the Potter universe. This character is named Leta Lestrange. She is revealed to be a friend of Newt during his school days at Hogwarts. Even though Newt suggests that they have drifted apart because “people change”, he still keeps a photo of her, so we might discover more about this character later on in the series. Leta is most likely a member of the notorious Lestrange family, which involves Death Eater, Bellatrix (the crazy woman who killed Dobby and made us cry).

Cons

Like with most films, Fantastic Beasts suffers from a few flaws in logic. However, the biggest let down of Fantastic Beasts was the lack of on-screen connection amongst the cast members, as their characters’ relationships often felt dull and awkward, especially of that between Newt (Eddie Redmayne) and Tina (Katherine Waterston), as depicted below.

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The film also lacks significant character development. Considering Newt, 
we learn a bit about his background through the dialogue of other characters. It would have been more insightful if we got know him better through flashbacks, which would provide authentic glimpses into his life. Perhaps we’ll be given these glimpses in the film’s sequels.

Final thoughts

Overall, Fantastic Beasts is an entertaining film with much depth and intrigue. You don’t have to be a Harry Potter fan to enjoy it. The trailer below captures its magic without giving too much away.

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Aside: Katherine Waterston bears a baffling resemblance to Australian singer-songwriter, Missy Higgins (she makes great music btw).
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Linda wrote this review whilst listening to the Harry Potter theme song and drinking a banana and mango smoothie. She does not recommend banana with mango.