Spoiler-Free Review of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Magic and mystery blend together in this tale that takes us back to the wizarding world J. K. Rowling has created.

Spoiler confession: I’m not an HP fanatic. I’ve read the first three books but haven’t seen the movies yet. I beg forgiveness. I’m not a Muggle! I just need more time.

Hmmm…maybe I need to pay a visit to Hermione and get my hands on that Time-Turner. (See? I do know that much. Not a total loss. 😛 )

With that risky disclaimer out of the way, I can say I approached Fantastic Beasts as an intrigued semi-fan.

Plot

I had no idea what would happen (apart from what I’d seen in trailers). Huge bonus. It’s always fun to go into a movie primed to be surprised.

As for what actually happened, I’m torn. Some parts kept me on high alert, eager to see what awaited. Other parts were slower and didn’t hold as much interest.

Pretty sure the plot wanted to take after Theseus when he was in the minotaur’s labyrinth. Several unexpected twists kept the story interesting, though I called a few of them early on.

The overall story arc confused me at times and didn’t raise the stakes high enough at points. Attention to the setting dominated and ultimately weakened the actual story.

Setting

A world we know, yet one infused with the extraordinary. Such an approach makes for a fascinating dynamic. We saw the streets of New York, people dressed in business suits, early 1900s automobiles. Familiar, comfortable.

Throw in an organization of underground wizards, a range of truly fantastical beasts, and mix with tensions between the wizarding and Muggle worlds and boom—insta-fantasy world layered within our own.

Setting is where Fantastic Beasts shined—at times like an annoying glint on an overly polished piece of brass. The wizarding world is indeed fantastical, and I enjoyed many of the quirks that make it unique. However, the display felt forced at times.

As if party time at Hogwarts had arrived, to celebrate the visual feast provided and convince people to fall in love with this new iteration of the wizarding world. Nothing wrong with celebrating, but the “noise” became too much at times, distracting from other key elements.

Loved the suitcase. It’s basically a brown TARDIS with hinges and a handle. Hello. Coolness scale broken. The magical elements, too, brought a sense of wonder and enchantment.

Characters

Eddie Redmayne did a decent job as Newt Scamander—nothing spectacular. I found myself liking his unofficial, Muggle sidekick Jacob Kowalski. Honestly, if the movie had put Kowalski in the starring role and told the story from his perspective, it would have been fascinating. A Muggle who falls in with wizards. Relatable, spellbinding, tension-filled.

For pure acting, Ezra Miller, who played Credence, wins everything. He nailed his performance.

The Goldstein sisters were quite the pair of opposites, which made for some amusing interplay. In the range of secondary characters, no one stood out. Interesting here and there, but nothing to demand a deep level of care and concern.

Can’t have a movie review about fantastic beasts without actually talking about the fantastic beasts. Loved the creatures. Newt’s Bowtruckle reminded me of a baby Groot. And good gracious, the Niffler. The little thief provided several bouts of comic relief.

Creativity was in full swing with the creatures. Imagination free be wild. That willingness to unshackle the bounds of imagination is one of the many things that makes fantasy cool, and the film did it excellently.

Conclusion

That. Music. Though. James Newton Howard is DA MAN. Easily one of the best soundtracks I’ve heard.

In modern movies, it’s easy for the action and visual display to drown out the music. Not so with Fantastic Beasts. The score supported the action and setting, adding vibrancy and energy.

I listened to the soundtrack while writing this post because a) it’s that magnificent and b) it’s inspiring.

On the whole, this movie didn’t wow me. I loved parts of it, and the otherness of the wizard world captured my imagination. Yet it lacked that certain intangible “it” factor needed to transform me into an emotionally compromised, wide-eyed puddle in awe of the spectacle before me.

If you’ve seen Fantastic Beasts, what was your favorite part? I’d love to hear your thoughts here or on social media.


Comments

Spoiler-Free Review of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them — 8 Comments

  1. I loved the niffler. He had us rolling in stitches.
    And I liked the movie but was semi-disappointed, too. Especially at the cameo at the end…
    I agree that Kowalski was the best though I did like Newt – he was a unique hero – not confident or awe-inspiring but someone reclusive, perhaps with aspergers or some such. But I did feel that, unlike the HP series, this movie lacked a lead that we could really identify with and root for. And without those stakes, it was just a bit harder to really care about the outcome.

    Not having read the entire HP series, you may be missing out on little elements, though. All the stuff about Grendenwald is stuff we learn a lot about in the final few volumes.

    • Niffler for the win, LOL. 😀

      That’s true. Newt was certainly not hero material by typical modern standards, which was a nice touch. But yes, he felt harder to identify with and relate to.

      Yes, I’m sure I missed a number of things due to my lack of ignorance. 😛

  2. Definitely felt to me like a movie that “just missed” the mark. There were elements I loved (Jacob, the niffler and other creatures), and moments that were reminiscent of the friendships I adored in the HP series… but too often they were overshadowed by the meandering plot, the overwhelming special effects/world that (as you so eloquently put it) shone a bit too brightly, the awkward/uncomfortable moments, and the overwhelming darkness of a movie in which I felt the wizarding world came a bit too close to our own. My overall conclusion? They were trying a wee bit too hard, and lost their grip on the inherent sweetness that their audience loves about the HP world.

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