The long-awaited Harry Potter spin off is here! Many, including myself, weren’t too excited by the prospect of more Harry Potter, for me it was as we already have an incredible story from that universe. Not only that, it was a complete and cohesive story, and after The Cursed Child (my thoughts on which you can watch here) I wasn’t feeling too optimistic. Nor was I enthused by the announcement of there being 5 films in this series, and I’m still not sure how I feel about that.
As a warning, there will be SPOILERS!!
I’m glad to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the film, especially by how quickly I became attached to the characters and invested in the story of Newt Scamander and his briefcase full of creatures that would inevitably escape and wreak havoc in New York City.
Let’s start off with the characters. I became instantly attached to Newt, Eddie Redmayne played him brilliantly, although Redmayne does often seem to be cast as the slightly awkward and adorable nerdy character. Queenie and Tina are refreshing characters to the Harry Potter universe; an Auror gone astray and a woman who just lives her life, reads minds and loves to cook. Kowalski is an interesting addition to the magical trio, and his love story with Queenie was surprisingly endearing. I loved seeing adults in the Harry Potter world! We followed young wizards for years, so seeing the ‘real’ world outside of Hogwarts is fascinating, especially as someone who grew up watching Harry Potter films and is now an adult!
My favourite character was actually Graves for a lot of the film, his motivations were unclear, and I thought he was aiming towards something good by using methods that other witches and wizards were too afraid to utilise. Well, I was bloody wrong wasn’t I, with it turning out he’s Grindelwald. I’m pretty gutted that Johnny Depp is playing him, not least because of his recent assault scandal.
Otherwise, I believe too many characters were packed into this film, the people against magic? What sparked that? What were their motivations? And why did the obscurus kill only the Senator? And why did we see so much of his father who runs a newspaper? I’m guessing we’ll find out more down the line, but it was a lot packed in for one film.
The plot is rather linear, we expected the beasts to escape, havoc to ensue, everything to go back to normal – and that’s what we got. However, the twists still shocked me, I didn’t expect Credence to be the obscurial (and apparently he survived that?), nor did I expect Graves to be Grindelwald. Seeing magic used in calm everyday situations, and even on large scales (i.e. putting a building under construction back together) was a highlight for me, rather than the main plotline. However, I’m glad the change of characters took us to dive bars that are hives for criminal activity, and a bloody city! Yes, we’ve seen London a lot, but a few wizards living slap bang in the middle of New York?! That seemed like something we’d never see!
In terms of music and directing, it’s spot on for a Harry Potter film. Tracks we know and love come into play in various capacities throughout the film, and the direction, by a veteran Harry Potter director, takes us right back. It felt like a Harry Potter movie to me the minute it started and we were being taken through various newspapers, so pat yourself on the back David Yates!
How does it all match up with the Harry Potter saga? Newt is mentioned a fair few times in the books, hell Luna Lovegood even marries into the Scamander family! I’m interested as to how her husband never seemed to be mentioned in the Harry Potter books, did he just fade into the background? It seems like he would have attended for at least some part of the saga.
I feel like we would have heard about some of the events of this film, even in passing from Hermione, or at least in Deathly Hallows in discussions of Grindelwald. We had never even heard of Obscurials! Again, that seems like something that would have been brought up at some point, possibly through Hagrid, Neville, or someone else entirely. Yes I know the easy answer is because J.K. hadn’t invented them at the time of writing, but still, it pokes a hole in the series a little bit.
Although, that and an overcrowded ensemble being my only complaints about the film really highlight what a stellar movie it is.
I think I’d give the film a solid 7.5/10. It was enjoyable, intriguing and a delve further into a world we’ve only had a rather limited view of so far. I always said I could take or leave Fantastic Beasts, and I’m glad to eat my words!
I’m still bitter that I lived in Liverpool when this was filmed and would walk past the sets all the freaking time yet I never ran into any of the cast!! Though it was great being able to spot which scenes were filmed in Liverpool! Liverpool often seems to play New York during the 1900’s…see Captain America: The First Avenger for another example.