‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ is a return to the Wizarding World, but this time focusing on a time 70 years before the beginning of Harry’s story. In a time where dark forces are threatening the Wizarding World, Newt Scamander travels to New York (for some reason) and is thrown into an adventure when his magical creatures are let loose upon the city and he must recapture them before it is too late. Now that right there is just one of the many things that is going on in this film that really gave itself too much to do in a little over 2 hours. It is once again directed by David Yates who helmed the last four films in the Harry Potter franchise. He does a good job at transferring over a lot of the same tones from the Harry Potter films and incorporating similar magical elements whilst also not relying solely on the familiarity of those films. The new characters introduced are highlights of the film with strong performances from most, especially Eddie Redmayne. But, a few slight editing issues early on a a very convoluted and unfocused story made this a good film but also a disappointing one.
The new crew of main characters had a lot to live up to when inevitably comparing them to our previous gang of heroes and i thought they did a very good job and were thoroughly entertaining. They had very good chemistry and their scenes together scouring New York trying to capture the pesky little (or big) beasts were some of the most enjoyable in the film. The back and forth conversations especially between Newt (Redmayne) and Jacob (Dan Folger) were filled with great comedic timing livening up all of the dark scenes in between. Tina (Katherine Waterson) is a character who initially starts off as someone i wasn’t quite sure i was going to like, but she quickly grows on you as the film gives you more and more about who she is. Colin Farrell’s villain in the film; Percival Graves, was an interesting character who was unfortunately underused, didn’t really do a whole lot and was thrown to the side in favour of an evil cloud monster.
The biggest flaw of this film is that it gave itself so much to do by involving and introducing many characters, introducing many different (sort of connected) storylines, giving characters closing arcs for this film, and setting up other characters for more stories in the next 4 films…. Yes, 4 more films. This does not mean that all of these stories were bad, just that having to follow all of these different events made the film so unfocused that i can’t really tell you which plot-line ended up being the main one. They all sort of blend together awkwardly sometime during the film and i couldn’t tell exactly when the transition was made. Ezra Miller is also in this film and his storyline unfortunately was the most boring out of all of them. It took over half the film to learn of how it is necessary for the main story and in the end it really felt out of place and did not demand as much screen time as it took.
Some of the early setting up of the story felt a little rushed due to the editing eluding to minor scenes missing and swapping back and forth constantly. But this is only minor as they clearly struggled to get everything in and had to make some cuts to the run time somewhere.
So in the end ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ is a good introduction to this new yet familiar world with new and entertaining characters that both casual movie-goers and die hard Potter fans will enjoy. An unfocused story holds the film back but the humour in here and the presence of familiar magical tones keeps this up as an enjoyable film. After seeing this film i can say that i really am looking forward to where this series goes because i think it is heading in a direction that can reach levels of greatness that match those of the Harry Potter franchise.