Film review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

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***SPOILER ALERT***

First and foremost, I must say that you definitely shouldn’t read this review if you don’t want to know what happens in the film, I will give away a few little spoilers that you might want to avoid if you’re planning on seeing the film. Secondly, if you are reading this review hoping to get an unbiased account of the film then it is highly likely that you will be disappointed. Although I do not prescribe myself to be a Harry Potter “superfan”, I am pretty attached to the series. As is the case with many people my age, I grew up with the Harry Potter series and still get a little bit emotional thinking about the final film. It’s obvious for this reason that I could probably have sat through ten hours of watching paint dry and still think that it was the best film of the year. Thankfully though I didn’t have to sit through ten hours of paint drying but instead it was just over two hours of pure magic (excuse the pun)!

In all seriousness, however, J.K. Rowling has done it again. As the film began I was incredibly nervous. I was worried that the hype may have been for nothing, and that they were going to ruin my favourite film series of all time by being overly greedy and making an unnecessary new collection. The beginning was a little slow, which didn’t help calm my nerves, but as soon as the film got started there was no stopping it. The plot was, as we have come to expect from J.K. Rowling, flawless. The story keeps the audience on their toes throughout and the twists and turns were second-to-none. Prior to seeing the film, I did think that perhaps five new films might be excessive but I can see now that J.K. Rowling clearly has more of her stories to tell.

One of the things that I liked most about this film was its grown-up feel. There were many dark elements and I’m certain this is why it was given a 12A rating. The beginning of the story, the more light-hearted parts were based around Newt and his beasts, which it quickly becomes clear are not the main problem in New York at the time. The darkest element of the plot evolves around a boy named Credence, who later is shown to be an Obscurious, a child who has supressed their magical side to the extent that it becomes almost parasitic; when Credence looses his temper at the end of the film all hell breaks loose. The story revolving around the Obscurious already has people speculating as to the nature of the upcoming films, some even making predictions about who else might have been an Obscurious (Dumbledore’s sister, Ariana, perhaps?!)

The grown-up feel to the film does not come without deeper themes, ones of violence and a lack of toleration. J.K. Rowling even manages to squeeze in a scene where Newt and his newest companion are sentenced to the death penalty and face up to the magical version of what is clearly supposed to be the electric chair. The downside to this is only that it can seem quite heavy at times, particularly considering that this is only the first film of five. I hope that they have not started off the collection of films a little bit too heavy with nowhere to go to progress in the future four films.

It is clear from beginning to end how far technology and special effects have come since the beginning of the Harry Potter series began filming back in September 2000. The filming techniques and the special effects are incredible, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it were to win all of the major awards for these categories. Not only this but the sets were amazing. What amazed me most was that not a single scene filmed with the cast members was actually shot in New York, the majority of scenes were shot in man-made sets in Leavesden Film Studios. Their attention to detail is nothing less than what you would expect from J.K. Rowling and the team that created the Harry Potter world.

Despite the impeccable sets, special effects and storyline, the film would have been nothing without the cast that was chosen. Eddie Redmayne, played the protagonist, Newt Scamander perfectly awkwardly and in parts almost reduced me to tears. I raise my hat to the person who selected the cast, there was not one actor or actress who wasn’t entirely suited to their role within the film. In my personal opinion, Dan Fogler, who played Newt’s “no-maj” or “muggle” sidekick, Jacob Kowalski, stole the show a little bit with his witty one liners and definite likeability. His romance with Queenie Goldstein, played by Alison Sudol, an almost unknown actress, will undoubtedly melt a few hearts as it did mine. There was even a tiny appearance and one-liner from Johnny Depp, who we have already been made aware will play Gellert Grindelwald in some, if not all, of the following four films. I was shocked most by Depp’s appearance because I was pretty certain that we wouldn’t be seeing him until the next one, clearly I was wrong and that was a well-kept secret by the cast and team!

I did warn you at the beginning of this review that it was unlikely to unbiased and I realise now that I find it pretty hard to fault the film as a whole. If I was going to scrutinise it then I would be lying. I was expecting big things and this film does not disappoint. Five out of five stars. If you haven’t seen this film already, go, today, you’ll be hard-pressed not to be pretty overwhelmed!

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