Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Review

As per the trumpeting of a massive marketing campaign, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them marks a return to the beloved wizarding world of Harry Potter. The franchise was a global phenomenon, and broke countless records for both the book and film series. While both Harry Potter and Beasts exist in the same universe, the latter takes place seventy years before Harry’s saga begins. Though there are frequent references to the Harry Potter mythology, one can easily enter this film without prior knowledge of the universe. With five films already planned for this new franchise, whether it is worth your time is another question entirely. While the film has its charms, it gets tangled up in its own world building and consistently underwhelms.

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM

Author of the Potter series J.K. Rowling has tantalized fans with her first foray into screenwriting, and Beasts is based on a textbook that Harry and his fellow wizards would have read at Hogwarts (which was subsequently published in the muggle world in 2001). The story follows Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), who is travelling the world in search of mysterious creatures. A brief stopover in New York turns chaotic when he accidentally lets some of the creatures loose. Thankfully, Beasts starts off strong with a particularly thrilling opening. Director David Yates, who helmed the last four HP films, and has signed on to direct all five in the Beasts franchise, recalls a lot of what made the Potter films feel so special in the films early moments.

Unfortunately, the screenplay ends up being the root of the films problems. While intricate and lengthy world building makes Rowling’s novels shine, the same does not apply to her screenplay. The film is so intent on building a complex and intricate universe that it drags heavily under its own weight. Beasts really suffers from trying to do too much, and there are so many subplots that none of them feel even remotely developed. Furthermore, because of the over-complication, the characters feel shallow. Redmayne’s Scamander feels particularly one-dimensional, and despite solid work from the actor, Newt Scamander is devoid of any interesting character traits, and placing an empty vessel in the lead role makes a lot of the film difficult to engage with.

Interestingly, the beasts themselves are hardly fantastic. As yet another symptom of a film so focused on doing everything all at once, only a couple creatures get enough screen time to be worthwhile. Strangely, the scenes diving into the specifics of the creatures are the most difficult to sit through, and there is an overwhelming feeling that the film, like the beasts, have no idea what their purpose is. This is made all the more evident in the Beasts dire final act, which abandons any creativity it mustered earlier in a brutally derivative finale.

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM

This lack of purpose is precisely what makes Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them such strange viewing. The film certainly has its moments, and actually features some of Yates’ best work to date. Fight scenes are coherent and well filmed, and there is some inspired camerawork. Still, there is a pressing sense that the film is more about a brand than the experience itself. It may appear to come from the same world as Harry Potter, but make no mistake: this film is hollow.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Review
2.0Overall Score

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