Movie reviews are not a thing I’m interested in getting into, but Fantastic Beasts totally calls for a spoiler-free review.
J.K. Rowling’s world became a big part of my life. I got the first books from my brother for Christmas, along with Harry Potter’s “textbooks” (Quidditch through the ages & Fantastic Beasts) when I was about ten years old. Unfortunately, other than a light read, I put those books down and didn’t touch them again until many years later. When I returned to the books, I was around 21 years old. While I watched the movies, often in theatres, they didn’t resonate with me as they should have. While re-reading the books, I told myself that each completed book would be rewarded with a movie of that book. Well, not only did the books captivate me, steal my heart, and destroy me in ways a book hadn’t done for a long time, the movie adaptions did the same, and so I was flying through books and movies like nobody’s business. And Harry Potter took over my life (bought merch, bought LEGOs, went to Wizarding World, was selected by Ollivander, etc).
And so, when you are that in love with a series and haven’t been immersed in that film world for a long time, something like Fantastic Beasts is a total blessing. As such, I went in there with immense excitement (and dressed in my Ravenclaw robes) and watched with eyes wide and mouth dropped. I was not disappointed.
Having read reviews before, I was slightly concerned with what I was hearing: a lot of filler and no plot. But I have to disagree with this. Fantastic Beasts wasn’t a book: it was a textbook, and, as such, Rowling had to help create a new world and story for her fans, using old lore. FB did just that. When you create a new storyline, it’s intent is to be captivating and that’s what FB did. I am already beyond excited for the second one! FB is like the prequel we HP fans never knew we needed or deserved.
I also thought the characters were beautifully developed. Again, Rowling was working from a blank slate beyond a name and a house (Newt is in Hufflepuff) and I felt Redmayne embodied the character in a wonderful way. This compassionate monster-hunter was an odd and educated and inquisitive Hufflepuff in every way. Tina wasn’t impressive but wasn’t bad, and Queenie and Jacob played off each other so well. But let’s not forget the baddies, too (no spoilers, so I won’t name names); very interesting in their own ways.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there were some flaws.
There was a scene with a rhino-creature which was, disappointingly, completely unnecessary and total filler. Remove that scene, and the movie would have survived. Remove that scene, and the movie would still have magic. Remove that scene and we still understand Newt’s quirks. Remove that scene and viewers will still understand how powerful some creatures can be. Why they didn’t put that scene on the cutting room floor was beyond me.
Also, this world feels different than HP’s world, and while that’s not necessarily a flaw, it could be a disappointment for fans. HP’s world was one filled with wonder, discovery, strength and resilience in difficult times, and about feeling loved when you’ve always felt alone. That’s because it was a story from the perspective of a child and not an adult. HP’s feelings resonated with us because we have felt them too, we understand those emotions a lot more as adults, and we loved the nostalgia that it stirred within us. HP’s stories introduced us to this new world and allowed us to grow and discover it with Harry and his friends.
This story feels different because it is different. Being from the perspective of an adult, the magical world changes. It’s no longer a story of discovery, of growth, or of overcoming obstacles, but of better understanding the world we’ve already grown in. It’s about expanding upon the lore and magic we may not have seen or understood yet, and giving us an action adventure to go along with it. It’s meant to thrill us and have us on the edge of our seats without wondering or asking questions about the magical world – since we already understand and love it. Fantastic Beasts assumes we know Rowling’s world like the back of our hand, and lets us experience it from an adult Wizard’s perspective.
But Newt Scamander is just as carefree, youthful, and curious as a child, so the sense of wonder he ignites in you still exists as you watch this movie. But again, it just feels different. Perhaps when we are given the chance to see Ilvermony and gaze upon its majestic castle walls, we’ll get those true wonderment “feels” again.
A lot of people went into these movies expecting Harry Potter, but let’s not forget that a lot of those movies are really not that good; they’re just tied emotionally to a world that HP fans know and love and so we can’t let go of them or call them anything but amazing.
FB was amazing. Because of advancements in film, they were able to take “our” world and expand upon it in new and outstanding ways and make it look better than it ever has. If you don’t expect HP but you’re ready for magic and lore, and you’re ready to be back in Rowling’s universe, then there is no doubt you’ll love FB as I did.
My only other complaint is the choice of actor for a major character. He’s an amazing actor and I know he’ll fill the role really well, but I don’t respect him or his actions outside of film, and it irks me to indirectly support him by watching these movies… But I said this would be spoiler-free so I won’t say much more than that.
Have you watched FB? What did you think!? Let me know in the comments below!