Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 2016 Review

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★★★★☆

I’m not sure how long ago the trailer started playing at other film screenings but every time I watched the trailer for Fantastic Beats I couldn’t contain myself. Yes Harry Potter is life and YES I had the energy to watch this film at the midnight screening on the day of release. I was actually shocked that there wasn’t a major demand to get tickets for the first screenings… this is an addition to J.K Rowling’s world and I don’t think it was hyped up as much as the Harry Potter films were. That made me slightly nervous… expectations expectations.

It’s hard not to talk about it in contrast to Harry Potter so from now on I’m abbreviating it to HP. It’s not a sequel and it’s not a prequel (kind of is) it’s just an addition to the wizarding world however its 70 years prior to HP. David Yates is back at it again and it is evident that this is a HP film as in way the it’s shot and edited. I wasn’t sure if I was happy about the American setting, it was rumoured before that HP could have been set in America but  J.K Rowling wasn’t okay with that as it wasn’t true to her novel. This time J.K Rowling had no book to fall back on, this is J.K Rowling’s screenplay and there doesn’t have to be any fans out there worrying that it’s not true to the book because basically this is it AND we’ve got 4 more films to go.

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Set in 1920’s New York, this introduces a stark difference between the wizard/muggle relations we see in HP. Although HP is still has a secretive wizard community, we see more of the wizard world, the muggle world that’s explored in the books didn’t make it onto screen and when it does muggles come across as pretty pathetic. That is where Fantastic Beasts conquers because not only do we see more of the muggle world we see how threatening it was to be magical in the 20’s.

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A sub plot that I didn’t expect was the Second Salemers who act as an anti-witch/wizard fanatic group, creepy AF. This could have been a whole film on it’s own, I thought it was genius because the Salem Witch trials actually happened… so to consider how this effects a fictional wizarding world was exciting. Incorporating them as a fanatic group was perfect and I would have liked to see more of them, the similar fear you feel of Death Eaters in HP resonates the same for the Second Salemers.

Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander (he’s a Hufflepuff), who is basically a magical creatures Steve Irwin. We get to see new creatures that other wizards think are more evil than good and Newt is on a mission to write a book instructing others how to correctly care for the creatures and understand their behaviours. Newt meets Tina Goldstein who reports him to MACUSA, which is basically America’s Ministry of Magic. Played by Katherine Waterson, Tina lives with her sister Queenie who lost their parents at a young age…. is this a Harry situation part 2?! The sisters offer companionship, romance and humour, alongside No-Maj (muggle) Jacob Kowalski played by Dan Fogler. I am not sure where Fogler has been hiding all my life but his comedic timing and presence on screen is effortless… he doesn’t even have to speak! Kowalski becomes the new Ron in Fantastic Beasts and gets caught up in Newt’s arrival in New York.

Obviously with knowledge that the Second Salemers are preaching on the streets of New York and with mysterious accidents happening pre Newt’s arrival, when the creatures do escape from his suitcase of wonders it all comes down to Newt. However the issue is far deeper than that but that is all I can say! Watch out for Colin Farrell who plays Graves who is the lead Auror of MACUSA who keeps close relations with Credence played by Ezra Miller, the adopted son of Second Salemers leader Mary Lou played by Samantha Morton.

That explains my one issue I had with the film… it could have actually been two separate franchises completely. One with Newt Scamander and the other with Grindelwald. The connections made in the film were not bad but on the basis of the film being called Fantastic Beats and Where to Find Them I thought maybe we were going on a David Attenborough type expedition to study the animals. This would have been cool to see before Newt got to New York. In many ways the Fantastic Beasts get in the way of the real story that is hidden in the trailer and the whole promotion of the film. BUT THAT CAMEO.

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You don’t have to have seen the HP films to enjoy this one but if you haven’t that’s weird. Fantastic Beasts doesn’t rely on HP to set up the story either it just expects you to understand the terminology learned in HP. There are a few mentions of Hogwarts, Lestrange and Dumbeldore… exciting! I can’t imagine how the next 4 films will pan out but fans have already started creating theories and I can safely say I’m excited!

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