Sunday, 20 November 2016

'Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them' Review

Prequels are a very tough thing to create, just ask George Lucas. Giving the backstory or expanding the lore can be a very tough task wth huge pressure coming from critics and fanboys alike. 'Fantastic Beasts' looks to explore the wizarding world created in one of the most successful books and film franchises, 'Harry Potter'. Trying to replicate the magic after 8 movies is a tough task and with David Yates - director of the last 4 Potter movies- at the helm 'Fantastic Beasts' just about maintains the same level of quality

Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is travelling to the US to seek and document magical creatures that he cannot find in the UK. Whilst in New York, one of Mr Scamander' creatures escapes which lead to him mixing up his magic suitcase with one from a no-maj (muggle for us Brits). This mixup leads to more of the creatures escaping, which could be a big problem for the magic and muggle worlds.

J.K Rowling invites you back into her wonderful mind with another magical tale. As character Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) says in the film 'I don't think I'm dreaming....I ain't got the brains to make this up', which is a shout out to the wonderful Rowling who continues to dazzle audiences with her creations. This being most evident with the beasts themselves with some great CGI bringing them to life. There are some of the creatures that get more screentime than the others which allows them to shine more than others. After watching this movie, you will be putting the charming and humorous Niffler on your Christmas list. The creatures are fun which brings some great entertaining moments to the film. Although that is the case, there are some that do linger on and also feel very childish. As a family film, you can clearly see the moments that are targeted to younger children.

Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne is the new face of the wizarding world as magizoologist Newt Scamander. Scamander is not a people person and finds comfort in learning and spending his time with magical creatures. As he is someone who lacks social skills, he isn't the most charismatic lead character but that is not a problem. Redmayne's portrayal of the character is tremendous as he comes off seeming slightly weird but always with good intentions. In many ways, it is a character that many can relate to despite his magical abilities. Scamander is a likeable, interesting character and we're lucky to have a great actor like Eddie Redmayne portraying him. 'Fantastic Beasts' has succeeded in creating a character that you care about and will look forward to seeing more of in the future. 

Joining Redmayne in the wizarding world is Katherine Waterston who play the no-nonsense Tina, who looks to work her way back into her workplace after recently being let go. Waterston's character is a fairly basic character who doesn't do a lot to dazzle you throughout the film as she is the most grounded character. However, she is joined by sister Queenie (Alison Sudol) who is the opposite of her sister as she is very outgoing with a bubbly personality. Queenie is awestruck at the non maj Jacob, growing to admire him a lot, saying that he is different to everyone else she's ever known. Jacob is a vital part of the film as he is the comic relief, bringing a lot of the laughs to the film. Not only does he do this very well, but he is like us so he does not understand the magic terms or history which allows the film to fill us in with the details that we are missing. Dan Fogler does a great job in this role, doing everything that a supporting character should do.

With the aim to build a successful franchise, you have to make the characters likeable and most importantly, make you become attached to them. Thankfully, the film nails this with moments throughout the film hitting the emotional spots. They didn't overdo it either, leaving room for more work to build upon this in future sequels. The ending surrounding muggle Jacob is fantastic and really is quite powerful. It's good to see that Ayers is picking up from where he left off and succeeded in making us care for this new batch of characters. 

If you are familiar with the world of Harry Potter, you will be no stranger to the fact that the story has dark themes within it. In the 8 Potter movies, this was handled very well. In this film, not as much. The film does have some tone issues as it jumps from big fun moments to serious dark moments very quickly which do feel out of place. The dark moments mainly surround Ezra Miller's character Credence and Colin Farrell's character Percival Graves. The storytelling with these two characters is not subtle at all with the setups and the way the scenes are filmed, especially its use of light, make it clear that the two are involved. This does make the film very predictable as it doesn't really make you contemplate whether they are good or not, and when the reveals come, they aren't surprising at all. In saying this, both actors do very well, especially Miller who plays the very troubled Credence, whose performance makes you sympathise with the abused character.

I guess that it is unfair to continuously compare 'Fantastic Beasts' to the Harry Potter series as they are fairly separate due to the time gap. But this is actually something that works in the films favour. This is a brand new tale that allows those who haven't seen the Potter films to be introduced to the magical world and not feel out of place. Although I'd argue that this film isn't better than any of the Potter films, 'Fantastic Beasts' stands alone perfectly well. Many prequels rely too much on their predecessors but not this film. Sure there are some nods to the wider universe but it isn't overdone. It's simple, harmless fan service which will make the die hard fans very happy, even if it is just the mention of an iconic character's name. 

One of the more interesting aspects of this film was the aspect of seeing the American version of the wizarding world. We already got to see the UK version through eight films and this not only showed a different culture but a deeper look at normal wizard life. From how they talk and think about muggles differently to just what wizards do with their abilities was very intriguing and most definitely a strong point. We've grown to know many characters who do the same thing in the wizarding world due to the setting and 'Fantastic Beasts' improves on this. Hopefully, this will continue in the sequels as this series looks to explore the world furthermore.

If you enjoy these types of films, then you will enjoy 'Fantastic Beasts'. There is a lot to like and a lot of fun to be had with this film in which is a fairly solid first episode for this new story. Not as good as the Potter films but a worthwhile viewing nonetheless which will have you looking forward to the next instalment.

Final Verdict = 

So have you seen 'Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them'? If so, what did you think of it? I hope that this review was useful for if you were planning on seeing the movie which I do recommend. Once again, thank you for taking the time to read my review, it is much appreciated!

By Angus McGregor