The following was pitched to, and commissioned by, Culture Fly
It was hard to review Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them. To look at a franchise you love and criticise it isn’t an easy thing to do. To remain objective when the mere murmur of ‘alohomora’ causes a ‘nerdgasm’ is challenging. But, it had to be done.
However, Fantastic Beasts’ flaws are forgivable because the film, and the return to the wizarding world, is so comforting it’s impossible not to love. Casual fans will get swept up in queen JK’s storytelling and Harry Potter nerds will revel in the connections, the evolution of this world. So the purpose of this article is to review the film free of objectivity and go full fanboy.
If you’re wondering about my credentials, I’ll give you a quick list:
I binge read and watch the series once a year — they’re falling apart at the spine
I will defend Chris Columbus’ contribution to death
I once named a giraffe after Hestia Jones
Let’s open at the close, shall we? Spoilers, obviously.
1. The Reveal
The reveal that Gellert Grindelwald was behind everything all along shouldn’t have been surprising. The film flags this up at the beginning and hidden identities are a big part of Potter lore. The reveal worked as part of the narrative and sets everything up for the future four instalments. It is clear where this is all heading and it couldn’t be more exciting.
2. The New Crew
Let’s be honest, JK was facing a task of dragon-size proportions when she had to introduce new characters to sit alongside Harry, Ron and Hermione. Well, she’s only gone and caught that golden egg. There’s the failed auror Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), her sister Queenie (Alison Sudol), Jacob the muggle (Dan Fogler) and Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne).
It’s an interesting mix and introducing a muggle into the fold is pure wish fulfilment. How many Potter fans imagine themselves going to Hogwarts? It’s a great nod to the fandom and just what the world needs — especially after Grindelwald has made it quite clear he feels muggles are beneath him. Fogler, Waterston and Sudol were great but there was only one performance that really mattered…
3. Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander
He isn’t the beating heart of the movie, but Redmayne creates a great protagonist. Newt’s lack of social skills, his foppish hair and his caring nature make him the antidote to the toxic heroism seen onscreen today. Newt is disregarded as an oddball and he fits JK’s penchant for outsider protagonists. It’s empowering. He may not have an arc but goddamnit, he made me want to buy a Newt Funko Pop bobblehead and I hate those things.
The existence of Obscurials is a ‘holy shit’ moment for Harry Potter fans. An Obscurial is the dark force created when a young wizard or witch suppresses their magical ability. In moments of stress or anger, it explodes out of the host and wreaks havoc. It brings to mind Ariana, Dumbledore’s sister. Ariana refused to use magic and she couldn’t control it. The connection between Dumbledore’s sister and Ezra Miller’s Credence is gut-wrenching.
But, it’s the impact this revelation could have on the series that makes your bones shake. We know Dumbledore was forever haunted by the night Ariana lost control and died. We know that Grindelwald was present. We know Dumbledore and Grindelwald’s relationship ceased that night. The fact that Grindelwald has travelled to America searching for an Obscurial means he is troubled by the night Ariana died as well. The film does a good job at helping newcomers along but with this moment knowing it is Levi-O-sa, not Levios-AA, adds depth.
5. The Beasties
What would a film called Fantastic Beasts be without any beasties? The film brings to life all the magical animals given a couple of sentences in the entirety of the original saga. Seeing a Niffler wreck havoc in a bank is a delight and finally seeing more than the horn of an Erumpent is pure wish fulfilment. But, it was the cute Bowtruckle that really stole the show. Having always imagined them to be angry versions of Slim from A Bug’s Life, seeing them as cute little green humanoid plants was an emotional connection I never saw coming. Now, just prove that Crumple-Horned Snorkacks are real.
6. It’s Back
If there is one thing missing from an increasingly scary world, it’s comfort. Just seeing the wizarding world back on the big screen, learning new things about how it operates is what sticks the middle finger up at objectivity. Seeing the new sinister use for a Pensieve, seeing the beasts run wild in central park and understanding muggle and wizard relations creates a celluloid comfort blanket. This was a world I thought I knew but it turns out there is more to learn. Bring on 2018.