Kyle J. Steenblik

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is Enchantingly Fun and Charming [Review]

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fbw-promo-art-4c-smFantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Directed by David Yates
Written by J. K. Rowling
Based on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J. K. Rowling
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Samantha Morton, Jon Voight, Carmen Ejogo, Colin Farrell
Running time 133 minutes
Rated PG-13 for some fantasy action violence
5 stars out of 5

The year is 1926 and Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) has just completed a global excursion to find and document an extraordinary array of magical creatures. Arriving in New York for a brief stopover, he might have come and gone without incident…were it not for a No-Maj (American for Muggle) named Jacob (Dan Fogler), a misplaced magical case, and the escape of some of Newt’s fantastic beasts, which could spell trouble for both the wizarding and No-Maj worlds. – courtesy Warner Brothers

Years ago when the final Harry Potter film closed, and the seventh book ended many of us felt a loss. The universe continued to expand but it was never as fully satiating as we wished. We were recently granted a respite from that loss with the publication of the script for the Cursed Child stage play, but again it felt like an old friend simply visiting for the night. I am very happy to say, as a fan, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them left me completely satisfied, and ravenously hungry for more. While it may not necessarily reach the emotional highs and lows achieved in the Harry Potter franchise, I believe it just needs some time.

That said I believe it was more captivating and engaging than any of the eight Harry Potter films, even if it does feel slightly blasphemous to write that. While my inner fan would find it difficult to find much fault with this film, I can honestly say it is not without flaws, none of which is fatal. Most of what I would point out is nit-picky issues with continuity, visual elements, and common cinema tropes. I cannot care too much about minor continuity errors, because the more complicated the film, the more likely props and set pieces will find themselves out of place from shot to shot. However when those continuity problems exist in post-production effects I find those less forgivable, but I feel it adds a level of character that harkens to the days when practical effects were the only option, it feels slightly more real because of those minor imperfections. Sometimes visual design does not always fit, or work. In a film set in a specific historical era sometimes the costuming is not accurate because historical accuracy does not always look the best on screen. None of those issues hurt this film. What did hurt were the clichéd plot holes, Newt’s suitcase for example. Two things bothered me, the first is that it obviously has keyholes but they are never used to lock, or unlock the case, the second is that a talented wizard should have very easily charmed a suitcase that could not be accidentally opened. Of course if either of these two plot holes had been plugged the story would not be possible. I will let that slide, but I noticed, I definitely noticed but I will buy an explanation like Newt was a little too preoccupied to worry about something like proper magical suitcase locks.

Now it sounds like I am just a kvetching film geek over thinking everything. That is probably because that is what I am, I am not ashamed to admit it. I bring that up because there are some remarkable elements of this film that absolutely blew me away. The first being the abundance of positively endearing strong characters that we can very quickly learn to care about, like Queenie Goldstein and Jacob Kowalski, played by the remarkable Alison Sudol and Dan Fogler. The second being the rich magical culture of the Americas in contract to the familiar British wizzarding culture, it appeared and felt altogether familiar and decidedly American. Finally, the magical creatures displayed beautiful personalities that allowed them to participate in the story, rather than simply act as set dressing.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them opened the door to another corner of J.K. Rowling’s magical universe I would be willing to inhabit, if I was not already there.

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