Being an avid Harry Potter fan, I was thrilled when the trailer for ‘Fantastic Beasts and where to Find them’ came out. The trailer caused a bit of tears, flapping, and wails of “Why does it look so good?!” so naturally I couldn’t wait when I went and saw it after work.
Containers spoilers (duh).
Eddie Redmayne captures the essence of the quirky genius, obsessed with magical creatures, well: the slight twitches, the awkward rapid words, the exceedingly brief eye contact, and forced smiles to be socially accepted. The rest of the cast I didn’t care much for, I have to say. Queenie reminded me of Luna Lovegood, spacey but wildly talented in her own way, and Tina who seems a bit thick, doggedly desperate to get her Auror role back. I found her a bit flat, annoying, and disappointing, who contributes little to the entire story beside calming Credence at the very end – which failed, anyway. Kowalski as the fat comic relief was entertaining and it was heart-warming to see the bowled-over reaction of a Muggle (or a No-Maj – what a terrible name. Who came up with that?) seeing magic for the first time. He’s endearing and a bumbling fool, but I still find him superficial along with the rest of the supporting cast and contributed little to the journey.
Kowalski kicks off the whole journey by accidentally taking Scamander’s briefcase instead of his own pastry-filled one and then inadvertently releasing some of them. Chaos ensues. Given Scamander essentially has a small world there, I am very disappointed only four escaped, and none of them were particularly dangerous. The Erumpent was cool, I have to say, and I enjoyed Redmayne’s sex dance to lure the female back to his briefcase (only to be completely ruined by Kowalski). The Niffler also proved some comic relief and is quite cute; but none of them were truly ‘fantastic’. Redmayne portrays the passion of a magizoologist well, showing his dedication to his creatures’ welfare (his scream of “None of them are dangerous! Please!” was heartbreaking as he was led away to be jailed) and knowledge of their individual needs when feeding them within his briefcase. I felt his love for his animals and, odd as he is, sympathised with him when they were taken away. He’s absolutely right, of course: humans are the most dangerous animals alive.
Initial thought when Scamander got off the boat to New York was “Eh? Who the heck would take a bloody boat over there when you can Apparate? Maybe it hasn’t been discovered yet.” Cue they Apparate everywhere. Maybe distance was an issue, maybe across large bodies of water was an issue – but that stuck with me.
Graves’s revelation as the Big Bad in the end was predictable and with all the foreshadowing about Grindelwald as a threat (hey, this reminds me of Voldemort’s uprising and the threat of the magic world being revealed in the end of the Harry Potter series. Either JKR is reusing old plot points or is making a point that history repeats itself) I’m not entirely surprised it was Grindelwald himself masquerading as a high member of the American equivalent of the Ministry of Magic (Magical Congress of the USA — MaCUSA, awesome name). What I was surprised to find was that Jamie Campbell-Bowers aged into bleached Johnny Depp. Johnny Depp does not carry bleached blonde hair well, great as he is as an actor. The film did go on to hint that Graves was not as he seemed; he moved alone and used unconventional methods and harsh words to get Credence to do as he wanted. It was obvious he had an ulterior motive and his less-than-good side was also obvious from the start.
The magical world is surprisingly useless except to trample upon their own kind. A few magical creatures get released – breeding them is banned, but it’s not like there are no magical creatures in the USA – and everyone gets flustered and things get messy. They can’t capture a few simple creatures and can’t wipe a group of Muggles’ memories – but hey, at least they can put back together a collapsed building! I found that a tad disappointing. The magical battles were awesome as always in the HP world: lots of flashing lights, dramatic CGI effects, graceful swishing of wands — loved it.
The solitary twist in the story was the Obscurio’s true owner was not Modesty as Graves had initially thought (and huh? Grindelwald could be caught out by something like that?) but Credence instead, even though all documented cases of Obscuris had been in children younger than ten years old, but he was unexpectedly powerful, so I suppose that can explain Grindelwald’s mistake despite being the most powerful dark wizard of his time wielding the most powerful wand ever.
And the ending? What a convenient way to obliviate everyone. And to what extent is the efficacy? Everything they know? Only the recent events? And how precise? And how does it not affect the wizards – they drink water and get hit by rain, too. Gilderoy Lockhart was an obvious example that wizards can definitely get obliviated. Or are you saying the entire New York City wizarding population just didn’t drink the water or get hit by rain until whenever it is the venom is out of the water system? To me, obliviating everyone meant nothing’s changed. Sure, Scamander got to release the thunder bird, which is what he wanted to do, and Tina got to become an Auror again, but there is still the discrimination, the American wizarding world still cowers, and their laws still discriminate against their own. Poor old Credence got the shortest straw, being beaten and abused all his life only to show some promises of magic and then getting completely destroyed. There’s a hopeful little puff of smoke that escaped, leaving room for a sequel, but there is no feel-goodness about it at all.
Much as I complained about it during this, I enjoyed it. It’s a magical, exciting, fun film for the Harry Potter fans, with funny lines and beautiful CGI, but I found the plot a bit lacklustre. It caters well to avid HP fans, but as a standalone film it wasn’t mind-blowing. If I were not a HP fan, this film would not have gotten me to start watching HP.
Oh, and the American accent is hilarious. Newt Scamander spent the entire film being called “NOOD”!
Verdict: 4 stars. Mostly because I’m a huge Potterhead.