Man wasn’t this satisfying. It has been quite some time since I have heard the Harry Potter theme playing on the big screen and it certainly didn’t disappoint. While still apart, but not adhering to the wave of nostalgia hitting movies lately, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them takes the Harry Potter world in a completely new direction, changing the setting to the 1920’s America. While it may not take the top spot as best movie of the year, this one will certainly rank up there as one of the best movie going experiences of 2016.
In 1920’s United States, the eventual writer of the book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) has traveled across the Atlantic for a specific undisclosed reason. Once he gets their, he quickly learns that the United States community of wizards and witches takes a dim view to magical creatures and has outright banned them. After a particularly nasty incident in a bank involving an adorable niffler stealing anything that is shiny and not nailed to the ground as well as running into Newt’s eventual lovable sidekick and non magic user Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), Newt is taken to the United States Magical Congress headquarters by eventual love interest Porpentina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston). After the congress does not take Goldstein seriously, Newt and Tina go their separate ways until the plot pulls them back together when a mysterious creature begins to reak havoc throughout the city of London.
The Actors are Wonderful
Props to the casting director for this movie, because they did an excellent job in getting the best fucking people they could for this movie. I do not have a negative thing to say about anyone. Only which ones I want to praise more.
First and foremost, I just want to say how great it is to see Colin Ferrell and Jon Voight in a Harry Potter movie. I also just want to add that Colin Ferrell looks like the same exact person from A Winter’s Tale and it would be fucking great to see that trainwreck mix with the awesomeness of the Harry Potter world.
Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudal who plays Queenie, and Ezra Miller who plays Credence also deserve massive props for being awesome main leads. Eddie Redmayne, of course, steals the show as Newt Scamander and makes a strong case why he should be the next incarnation of the Doctor once Peter Capaldi has called it a day.
But the person who steals the show for me is Dan Fogler who plays Jacob Kowalski, the doofy no-maj who wants to open a bakery and ends up becoming the Watson to Newt Scamander’s Sherlock. He is just such a perfect straight man who takes on the role of the audience as we are amazed and enraptured by these wonderful experiences happening around him. He is easily one of the best parts of this movie.
It is a New Movie with Its Own Identity
This is a movie that stands up on its own and for that, it is its biggest strength. While there are references to the main series, this is a different movie with its own identity. It has a different setting, a different time period, it features new characters, and more mature struggles. Everything about this movie breathes new life into the Harry Potter Universe which seemed finished and canned since the end of the last film five years ago.
Newt Scamander is a refreshed main character that shares only miniscule similarities with Harry Potter. While he certainly feels like a version of The Doctor from Doctor Who going through his many adventures, he is certainly his own person and has a great foil in Jacob Kowalski to keep him grounded.
The film does center around adults. As the Harry Potter world continues to age, so does its fan base. While kids will always be welcome in the series and it will always be a family style movie, it is nice to see adults doing adult wizarding things.
It is great to see the American side of the wizarding world and how they do things. There is even some more subtle criticisms of government that I absolutely love in there as well.
All of this is just refreshing and so nice to see when there is a rejuvination of a franchise.
Did they Have to Have THAT Conclusion (Spoilers)
This is getting rather spoiler heavy with the ending, and since people aren’t fond of all that, I thought I would throw out the warning. So reading further before you reach the cons means you only have yourself to blame.
I don’t want to fault the movie too much for this because it is only something that really irritates me personally, though I admit that it probably isn’t THAT big of a problem to most and the movie even takes steps to correct it… But I just am not a fan with Jacob’s ending at the end of the film.
So basically after the whole ending of the movie, Newt lucky has the secret sauce needed to obliviate the city of New York’s mind after it is pretty well fucked over through the power of memory wipe rain. This gives the wizards enough time to peace it back together before shit goes back to normal. The problem though is that Jacob is, being a no-mag needs to be obliviated to per the orders of the President of the US Wizarding world. But why? Newt has already shown that he doesn’t have much of a regard for the rules and he even admits that he sees Jacob as a friend. Why couldn’t Jacob joined Newt and be the Watson to his Sherlock. He was the perfect straight man to bounce this materful whimsical world off of and Dan Fogler is easily one of the best parts of the film.
Yeah, it does have it at the end where his bakery shop is in the shape of Newt’s animals and he quickly recognizes his love interest Queenie. But I definitely don’t like the whole “well we have to obey the rules NOW” part of the whole thing when they could have easily written it off another way.
Pacing is a Bit of a Problem
So, I don’t mean to be THAT guy… But I am a movie critic, pacing, and camera work do irk me, and so I am going to dock it points for it whether or not you find it to be a problem or not.
From the technical end of things, pacing is somewhat problematic. The movie spends the first third of the movie trying to pick up some semblance of a plot with only a few plot points sprinkled here and there. Most of it is a funny slap stick scene in a bank, Goldstein arresting Newt so they can establish the US Magical Congress. It is all cool and you need these establishing shots… But a movie shouldn’t reach the forty-five minute mark and I am still confused on what we are even doing here and why. Luckily the movie is able to hide this fact by making the scenes entertaining and the characters lovable… But it is a slow burn that is noticeable after thirty minutes without a purpose.
This movie is rock solid and an excellent way to start off the end of the year movie watching experience. As more serious Oscar bait movies stumble onto the screen, this will be a quick and easy pallet cleanser to get you feeling good about life and enjoying some more Harry Potter universe and obviously if you are a Harry Potter fan, then this movie is a must for you.
The acting is great, the story is excellent, and overall it is just a much more grounded and fun experience. While there are some minor technical problems, it is certainly small potatoes to one of the best movies of 2016.
Final Score 4.5/5
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