Directed by David Yates, starring Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterson, Alison Sudol, Dan Fogler, Ezra Miller and Colin Farrell. Set in 1926, Newt Scamander has just returned from a global voyage, documenting an array of creatures, both for research and for the preservation of the species. Upon arriving in New York a number of his own creatures escape, and while they cause a certain level of mayhem, something else is terrorising the streets of the great city.
I have always loved Harry Potter, and will always love it as an introduction to literature and as a gateway of nostalgia to my childhood, they are my absolute favourite series of books. Not only are they the series that I grew up reading and obsessing over but I still listen to the audio books on my iPhone and have great sentimental value to me. When ‘The Deathly Hallows part 2’ arrived in the cinema, it was the end of an era and the end of Harry Potter as the lead protagonist. The films over time became stronger, grittier and more emotionally impacting, though the way in which the books ended was far superior and far more satisfying than their theatrical counterparts.
I mention this because it is important to differentiate the two series, to remember that this is the start of a new journey, and so while I have noted a few comparisons owing to this film being part of the same world, same director and from the same brilliant mind, these are new characters and a new approach to a familiar world.
When news first broke out online that Warner Bros was planning a prequel to the Harry Potter series, I admit, I was at first highly sceptical. My biggest fear was that they were trying to squeeze as much money out of the Harry Potter world as possible, like a sponge being squeezed of its last dregs of inspiration, as has sadly become a trend with many big blockbuster series. I am ecstatic to concede that I was really quite wrong about the whole business. Sorry J.K Rowling, I should never have doubted your brilliance.
Fantastic Beats is a very different experience from the original Harry Potter series for me, I have not read the book this film is based on, if there even is one with this extensive narrative and characters, and so for once I was totally unaware of the story’s narrative, and what would stay in the adaptation and what would be dropped. This was unnerving for me at first owing to my great knowledge of the world and that created a feeling of safety I’m sure others equally feel. As well as the difference in style, America rather than Britain, experienced Witches and Wizards rather than students learning, and pacing of the film compared to its predecessors. But after the first 20 minutes or so I found myself becoming totally engaged with this new but familiar world, exploring America for the first time and all it has to offer.
One thing, in particular, I am especially pleased about is in regards to the relationship between Dumbledore and Grindelwald. In the Harry Potter books, this relationship is explored towards the end of the series as a complex and deep relationship, which gave great depth to Dumbledore’s character and it is one of my favourite components from the entire series. Unfortunately, this relationship barely received the screen time it deserved in the Harry Potter films, so I am extremely happy that Fantastic Beasts will be exploring this further with the fascinating character Grindelwald appearing and based on what I have seen so far it is being handled with care.
The cast is really interesting and developed wonderfully, there are no perfect characters as each is dealing with their own personal issues and backstories. No character feels underdeveloped or without purpose, indeed Dan Fogler who I only know from smaller roles is fantastic with great comedic talent. Eddie Redmayne is an actor who has quickly risen to critical acclaim with his Oscar wins and nominations, I am ashamed to say that baring his small role in ‘Les Miserables’ I have not watched him in a lead protagonist role. There is something extremely captivating about him, from his Ryan Gosling method of saying nothing but at the same time saying everything, to his interactions with the numerous CGI characters which are the best I have seen yet. The women are fantastic, I don’t mean to band them together as one entity, but to say much about their characters is to spoil the fun as the trailers thankfully did not reveal much about them.
Colin Farell and Ezra Miller particularly stood out for me, as Farell is brilliant. Ezra Miller is quickly becoming one of my favourite actors, he has marvellous versatility as an actor that I hope will gain him the recognition he deserves for his characters. He will next appear as the Flash in Justice League.
With great difficulty, I shall refrain from saying much about the narrative for fear of accidentally spoiling it. J.K Rowling has created an intelligent, cleverly developed narrative/script that infuses all the elements we experienced within the original Harry Potter series. That sense of magical wonder, a group of really interesting and developed characters who aren’t perfect, but who are fundamentally more human than many characters you see in blockbusters films. A feeling of budding romance and the use of darkness and mystery that guided and developed the books, she has managed to encapsulate all of this into the first film which gives it a great mixture of tones, tempo and connection for the audience. There are a number of references made to the more familiar Harry Potter world, but rather than simply using a series of references to please the audience as comic book genre is very guilty of, Rowling is very cleverly building a foundation for future films.
The CGI in this film is exceptional, having recently watched Doctor Strange where it began with a poor CGI. Fantastic Beasts has an almost immaculate CGI performance, the interactions between the many fantastic beast and human is really quite impressive, and each of the creatures is given a very emotive character meaning as an audience we are able to connect to each and every single one of them, which is of paramount importance within a film such as this.
My only caution for this film is for really young children, not only does this film become quite dark but there is a level of depth that young children will either not comprehend or simply miss entirely.
An exceptional start to this new journey, fanastic characters, an intelligent narrative full of charm, love and darkness.
For Potter fans this is of course a need to watch film, for others I still highly recommend it.