The other day, I finally watched Fantastic Beasts thanks to Cineworld’s Imax Film Festival, an annual event when for one day only they offer cheap tickets to enjoy a few classics in high-definition. Cool idea.
There was a lovely and familiar air of Potter nostalgia as the Warner Bros logo appeared on-screen, backed by the iconic theme tune. This satisfying impression lasted throughout the film. For although this is set in a different country and era with focus on new characters, it really has the feel of J.K. Rowling’s fantastic universe. It felt good to dive back into it.
I like the way, as with Potter, the film uncovers the rules of the magic world throughout. It is particularly intriguing in how it emphasizes the cultural differences of magic/muggle relationships across both sides of the Atlantic. The story, which takes place in the pre-Civil Right years, offers via wizards and witches a barely concealed analogy for the treatment of subjugated minorities in the US to this day.
As expected, visually, this is on par with the previous films of the ‘series’. Some of the otherworldly scenes make for a great spectacle on the big screen. 1930s New York is especially well recreated.
The cast are convincing as well. Eddie Redmayne, an excellent choice who no longer needs introducing is awesome as socially awkward magizoolotist (that’s right) Newt Scamander. Likewise, Dan Fogler is the perfect fit as a staggered no-maj (Americanism for muggle) Jacob Kowalski, who much like the audience is dropped into the magical tale.
There is one major criticism which cannot be understated. Basically I’m not sure about the whole fantastic beasts thing – which is a problem given the movie’s title and theme. I found the whole thing about catching monsters a little boring after a while. I certainly would struggle to watch 5 films on this, as reportedly planned.
At times, the beasts thing made the movie look like HP and Pokemon’s unwanted lovechild. I would’ve much preferred the film to focus on the fascinating character of dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald, a Voldemort-type trying to spark war between the magic and non-magic worlds.
The end of the film strongly hints at a greater focus on him in upcoming films, as does his casting choice. This is exciting indeed. All in all an entertaining film which, it should be acknowledged, has to deal with the weight of unfairly high expectations. While it successfully introduces a new universe and group of characters, it is not quite the classic it could’ve been.