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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - Film Review

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by Adrian Kmita (subscribe)
Writer and Osteopath. A Sydneysider traveling the world solving life's puzzles. instagram.com/AdrianKmita
Event:
J K Rowling's Wizarding World of Harry Potter is back
J. K. Rowling's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
J. K. Rowling's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

It has been 5 long years since audiences last saw Harry Potter and his world of witchcraft and wizardry on the silver screen. While author J. K. Rowling has kept herself busy in the meantime, penning a Potter play for the Westend, Warner Bros. has been busy too, working on their persuasive pandering to convince Rowling to conjure some more magic for the big screen. The end result of this latest collaboration is the aptly titled Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. If that title sounds familiar to you, then you are undoubtedly a Harry Potter fan. If not, some artful explanation may be needed.

J. K. Rowling's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
J. K. Rowling's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was a title first mentioned in the midst of J. K. Rowling's very first Harry Potter novel the Philosopher's Stone. The title specifically related to a textbook prescribed to first year Hogwarts students, to accompany their Care of Magical Creatures lessons. While Rowling did expand on the concept quite some time ago with a replica of the textbook for charity, no one would have ever thought that this would be the gateway to the history of the world of Harry Potter as we know it.

J. K. Rowling's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
J. K. Rowling's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

While the intricate world of Harry Potter makes a triumphant return in this film, the young boy wizard does not. In this particular time-frame he is yet to be born. The movie instead follows the story of the author of the aforementioned textbook, the quirky magizoologist Newt Scamander. We first meet Scamander as he embarks on a quest across the Atlantic, with goals of magical creature conservation on his mind. He quickly finds himself in the midst of New York City's roaring 1920s, just prior to the great depression. New York in 1926 is unlike anywhere we have seen before in the Harry Potter universe, with a heavy emphasis on the suppression of witchcraft, creating an unusual magical underworld resembling elements of the prohibition era. To make matters worse, tensions are also high as news of a dark wizard causing havoc abroad permeates the American magical community.

J. K. Rowling's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
J. K. Rowling's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

On this particular adventure Newt Scamander brings with him his most prized possession, a suitcase filled with the things most dear to him. However, there is more to the suitcase than meets the eye. As audiences soon discover, deep within the case is a magical menagerie unlike any other. The plot thickens however when these confined creatures begin to escape following a few chance meetings with a number of magical and non-magical New Yorkers. These specific characters being muggle Jacob Kowalski, witch Porpentina Goldstein and her sister Queenie Goldstein.

J. K. Rowling's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
J. K. Rowling's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Jacob Kowalski is an aspiring bakery owner who is finding life difficult following World War I. In an unusual turn of events Kowalski's life is turned upside down as he crosses paths with Scamander, in addition to one of his adorable and yet mischievous creatures. From here the wild ride begins as Kowalski is drawn into New York's world of witchcraft and wizardry. Hot on the trail of the ensuing chaos is former auror Porpentina Goldstein, who has an intense desire to prove herself following a number of indiscretions within the Magical Congress of the United States of America, aptly named the MACUSA. Her intentions are pure, however she poses a problem for Scamander who is solely concerned with protecting his unique and endangered magical animals. With the MACUSA hellbent on keeping their existence a secret, Newt's collection of rogue creatures quickly becomes a nuisance. Complications arise further, when Scamander's beasts are accused of exposing the magical community, in addition to causing murder. From here Newt and his unlikely compatriots must find all his magical creatures, clear his name and above all, solve the mystery of the heinous crimes being committed.

J. K. Rowling's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
J. K. Rowling's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Eddie Redmayne in the role of Newt Scamander is marvelous to watch. He completely encapsulates the character and at times is unrecognisable as his former self. His quirky nature and confidence in his magical ability are juxtaposed against a severely shy and fragile side that is conveyed on screen incredibly well. There is an immense amount of depth to his character, conveniently reinforced by easter eggs sprinkled throughout the dialogue, which is sure to provide for interesting story material as the inevitable franchise of five films develops.

J. K. Rowling's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
J. K. Rowling's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Porpentina Goldstein, played by Katherine Waterston, on the other hand is quite bland and perhaps even underdeveloped. Her character arc is well defined and relatable, however the execution leaves a lot to be desired. This is understandable to a point since the story undeniably belongs to Newt Scamander. There may even be a motive behind the performance, leaving breathing room for a revealing moment later down the line. However, the gaps in her character arc are emphasised primarily due to the supremely sensational performances of Dan Fogler as Jacob Kowalski and Alison Sudol as Queenie Goldstein. Jacob Kowalski is adorable, relatable and profoundly entertaining from his delightful dialogue right down to each unique facial nuance. He is the glue that holds the film together and supplies a great amount of the narrative drive in the process.

J. K. Rowling's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
J. K. Rowling's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Queenie Goldstein is even more fascinating at times, exuding an aura of sensuality and quirkiness that accompanies her highly entertaining and supremely capable magical abilities. She also serves the fantastic role of revealing the other characters inner workings, which serves the story incredibly well. Alison Sudol's portrayal of Queenie is sure to be a favourite with audiences for years to come.

J. K. Rowling's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
J. K. Rowling's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Colin Farrell as Percival Graves also provides a unique conundrum. As the head Auror for the MACUSA he provides a formidable performance, exuding a much-needed gravitas that is essential to the role. Yet his onscreen presence can at times take audiences out of the film for brief periods, and more importantly out of the story world the Rowling has created. The most obvious reason for this is Farrell's instant recognisability, and a lack of character design that is unusual for Harry Potter films. There is a reason for this lack of design and character development which is revealed during the film, however these subtle indiscretions undeniably affect the film in negative ways. The Percival Graves character also suffers from having to serve a secondary subplot, which also slows the films narrative drive when each intersection in the storyline comes along. But overall, these are minor gripes in an otherwise fabulous film.

J. K. Rowling's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
J. K. Rowling's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

The fantastic Ezra Miller also lacks the usual energy we are used to from his previous films, as he adopts the role of Credence Barebone. While he is a key figure in the story, primarily serving the alternate subplot, his suppression can be uncomfortable to watch. This should be an interesting conundrum for younger audiences to fully understand, especially if they are looking to the film as a form of escapism from their seemingly mundane lives.

J. K. Rowling's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
J. K. Rowling's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

The inclusion of Ron Perlman also provides an interesting character performance for audiences to consume as he takes on the role of the underground goblin Gnarlack. Jon Voight's inclusion as Henry Shaw Sr. however seems to be more about lifting the credibility of the cast, especially since he really has nothing to do during the entire film.

J. K. Rowling's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
J. K. Rowling's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

The undeniable stars of the film are the adorable, abstract and yet personable creatures living in Newt Scamander's case. The Niffler, arguably the most adorable of the bunch, is sure to be a marketing mecca for Warner Bros. and Universal via their exclusive licence agreement to open Harry Potter theme parks. The character is absolutely captivating not to mention highly enjoyable to watch, as its predilection for glittery objects gets it into all sorts of trouble. Scamander's Thunder Bird is absolutely majestic, while his Bowtruckle and Swooping Evil are sure to conjure a few surprises. What makes it all the more plausible is the heartwarming relationships that Newt has with each of them. All the credit for this has to go to Eddie Redmayne, J. K. Rowling and the visual effects department.

J. K. Rowling's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
J. K. Rowling's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

The Fantastic Beasts musical score is also fabulous, much like its predecessors. It has all the right emotional cues, while being its own unique organism. The visual effects department should also be very proud. The film is a dark and eerie visual work of art, and 1920s New York City is simulated to perfection.

J. K. Rowling's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
J. K. Rowling's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Fantastic Beasts is J. K. Rowling's first quest into the realm of screenwriting. She does a remarkably wonderful job, adding to the story world that she artfully created in the original Potter series. The subtle differences she has added to the American magical world are incredibly entertaining. The story is also fascinating and quite dark, which is in stark contrast to Christopher Columbus' original cinematic adaptation. The plot will however give audiences the feeling that tough editing choices were made to secure the 113 minute runtime. The story does lack the subtle attention to detail that made the previous Harry Potter films all the more magical. Fabulous character development and dialogue are the primary focus in the film, however the city of New York is missing the magical locations that made London, Hogwarts and Potter's magical world all the more plausible. The spell craft and wizardry does somewhat make up for this, but it would have been nice to see unique New York locations converted into magical doorways to the underground wizarding society.

J. K. Rowling's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
J. K. Rowling's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Overall, the film is absolute magic. J. K. Rowling has once again conjured a surreal world that is profoundly interesting and entertaining. She has also managed to create a character in Newt Scamander who is likable and intriguing, emanating similar fragility to Harry Potter himself, while at the same time exuding the sensibilities of the lovable Hagrid. The film does however lack the opulence of the previous films in the Harry Potter franchise, wherein locations such as Hogwarts and Diagon Alley where key characters in themselves. Attention to character was most vital in this particular story, which was perhaps at the sacrifice of building unique story world aspects into the New York landscape. However, what's most important is that the film is destined to leave audiences feeling all the more joyous and perhaps even believing in magic once again. In summary, all you need to know is that the film is a must see on the big screen.

J. K. Rowling's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
J. K. Rowling's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them








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Why? The continuation of J. K. Rowling's wonderful wizarding world of Harry Potter.
When: In cinemas everywhere from November 17th
Where: In cinemas everywhere.
Cost: Price of a movie ticket at your local cinema.
Your Comment
I'm sure you'll love it Bryony!
by Adrian Kmita (score: 2|151) 699 days ago
I can't wait to see this; hoping to go this evening after work.
by Bryony Harrison (score: 4|12050) 699 days ago
Great article, Adrian!
by Elaine (score: 3|5521) 699 days ago
Thanks Elaine!! :)
by Adrian Kmita (score: 2|151) 699 days ago
I can't wait to see this! So excited.
by Jay Johnson (score: 3|1368) 698 days ago
Looks AMAZING
by Kiesten McCauley (score: 2|536) 698 days ago
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