Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – a review of sorts – yes, that’s as creative as I could manage to get with this title, and actually quite indicative of how I feel about the film. Oh no! That sounds like I’m going to say bad things! I’m not – mostly – so don’t fear!
That being said, I will start off as spoiler-free as I can, but inevitably will have to give you a spoiler warning. It’s not possible for me otherwise.
Ok. Spoiler-free portion. Here we go.
This was a really well-made film, with some highly skilled actors, that situated itself quite successfully within already laid out Harry Potter canon and film universe. In saying this, it didn’t speak profoundly to my soul, or have the degree of creative flair in its storyline that previous Harry Potter films (books) had.
I want to be fair however. This can’t be viewed through the lens we might have viewed the previous 8 films. Those had books to support them, and for the most part, this worked in their favour. There are a lot of complexities within the Harry Potter universe, ones that aren’t easily conveyed in a 120 minute feature film, and without those books to back it up, Fantastic Beasts ended up falling a little flat on certain storylines and concepts that I can feel certain in believing would have been incredible in the books.
On a similar strain, the canon also went a bit wonky as well. There were definitely concepts and magicky things that I felt (should they exist) would almost definitely have cropped up and been significant in the original films/books.
But don’t freak out! These factors didn’t create a terrible film!
Nothing is going to be perfect (I would die before saying I enjoyed the film adaption of HBP) and altogether this was a Fantastic (pun intended) film that I enjoyed immensely!
The beasts were simply amazing. They were creative, loveable, slightly frightening, and captivating all in one sweep – I only wish there had been more.
My favourite part of the film however, was two characters in particular, and from here, I will announce, you will be reading SPOILERS, so continue at your own risk.
I wasn’t expecting this, and certainly when first introduced to their characters I wasn’t too impressed, but by the end I was head over heels for both Jacob Kowalski, and Queenie Goldstein. Blabbering buffoon of a short and stout white man, and an almost absurdly feminine white woman who can read minds (sorry, but am I the only one who doesn’t recall anyone having or mentioning this power in the original books or films????) seemed almost lazy. Oh, and then for them to have a romance ?
And yet, I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, it was predictable, and yet they added some much needed personality into this film. Yes, there was Newt, a crazy, slightly deranged animal lover with a penchant for disregarding rules, but otherwise, everyone was rather uptight, and absolutely committed to a greater good, or cause.
Jacob and Queenie however, while good people, and absolutely committed to doing the right thing, were not on some great crusade, and they truly breathed some life into a rather bleak, and almost depressing film at times. They were silly, fun, affectionate, and wonderfully loyal to each other and the others in their group, it really was a beautiful pairing.
And yet, they could only carry the film so far, its storyline was, of course, not centred around them, but rather Newt, and the whirlwind of Muggle-Wizard conflict he found himself caught up in.
I’ll admit, the Muggle-Wizard conflict was a great storyline concept, as was the Obscurus (so sorry, no idea how it’s actually supposed to be spelt), and yet I could help but feel that they both were a) difficult to place within the existing canon that hadn’t mentioned them and b) underdeveloped. They could’ve been SUCH strong storylines, as could’ve the fantastic-beast-finding adventures, and yet because they were both placed within one movie, it felt like it wasn’t quite sure which one it found most important, and as a result, there was little real emphasis put on either.
However, my biggest issue was Grindelwald.
I had my suspicions that he would be in the film, and even that it all might come down to him, as he was rising to power around the time the film is set. And yet. It deviates from canon. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought it was mentioned quite clearly in the books that his power trip never extended further than Europe? So yeah, I understand that obviously he could’ve tried to enter North America and was eventually thwarted but that still places it rather strangely within canon.
Both because we know he will be stopped before rising to power in the US, so that takes the fear and intrigue out of it, but also because we know Dumbledore was the only one strong enough to stop him. So either Newt is just the appetiser for this film series, and we’ll be seeing more of Dumbledore come in (not opposed to this idea in the slightest), or we’re going to be deviating further from canon (opposed).
My biggest problem with Grindelwalds’ presence is something else entirely.
Johnny Depp was absolutely the wrong person for the role.
Even if we ignore that Jamie Campbell Bower was already the actor for young Grindelwald in the Deathly Hallows, Johnny Depp simply doesn’t look the part.
Oh yes, they made him look frightening, with his bleached hair, and his mismatched contacts – Depp does unsettling quite well – he just didn’t seem like the kind of guy Albus Dumbledore could fall in love with or idolise. His face simply didn’t look “merry, wild” or with a Fred-and-George air about him at all. I’m sorry, but Depp’s face no longer conveys that, and their styling of him didn’t help the slightest.
A tattooed, Nazi-looking, 50yr old with a white-supremacist air certainly looks the part of someone who commits the acts Grindelwald did, but Grindelwald – much like Voldemort – was supposed to be attractive and charming, and this was anything but.
Oh. And it’s 1920’s New York. Where are all the African Americans? I know I should talk more about this, but I just genuinely do not feel qualified enough to do so, however if you’re interested in more about these, I could recommend this Tumblr post as a starting point.
I’ve rambled enough.
If you don’t want to read all of this (understandably) I always put in a TL;DR at the end so you can get the gist.
TL;DR: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a perfectly enjoyable film, that sort of wasn’t sure where it was going at times, and with questionable casting choices, but nonetheless a great Harry Potter film, and one I look forward to watching again and again.
Also a great title sequence that I nearly shed an eye over.