There has been a lot of hype surrounding Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Originally released as a Comic Relief companion book to the bestselling (and wonderful) Harry Potter series, the film has now been blown out of all proportion, with a further four sequels confirmed. It’s all ridiculously commercialised and money-spinning, as everybody knows, and a fairly good example of why some things should maybe just be left alone. But what about the quality of the film itself?
It begins in the year 1926, with Eddie Redmayne as the eccentric Newt Scamander, collector of a myriad of fantastic beasts all comfortably hidden in an otherwise nondescript suitcase. Only problem is, America – his destination of choice – is overtly hostile to magical creatures, Muggles and basically any sort of integration between the non-magical population and the rather depressing wizarding world. The plot is fairly simple, with a few superfluous allusions to the Harry Potter world we all know and love – definitely just chucked a Dumbledore reference in there so they could say the phrase ‘Dumbledore’ – and charming, if pretty cut-and-pasted characters. Newt’s the only one who really provokes much interest, although that might possibly be because he hails from the much more intricate British wizarding world. (America’s so boring they call the Muggles non-mags. Non-mags. I ask you)
It’s unquestionably interesting to see a different facet of J.K. Rowling’s beloved world play out on screen, and really exciting to see how they slot the glamour of the Twenties into the wizarding world. If anything, I would have liked to see more magical allusions peppered throughout – ‘Alohamora’ and a couple of ‘Oblivates’ don’t really cut it, although the whole death-by-Pensieve thing is a brilliant new addition. Without spoiling the plot, there were sections that felt just a little muddled and could have handled a bit more clearly – uncomplicated, family-friendly blockbuster though it may be, that’s no reason to get carried away, particularly with the big reveal at the end.
It was always going to be incredibly difficult to please me. I hate the Harry Potter films and worship the books to a tragic degree. Nothing will ever come close to capturing the magic of the original series and to be honest, unless it’s the prequel for which I’ve always longed, there’s not really much point in trying. But, amidst all the contention, there’s one fact that can’t be disputed: the beasts really are fantastic. I dare you not to fall in love with a Bowtruckle or a Niffler. Go on, I dare you.
Image credit: Fantastic Beasts, 2016