Simply spellbinding – and I’m not just saying that!
Sitting in the movie theatre prior to the film. I wasn’t expecting too much. I thought the film would struggle to fill the big shoes of the Harry Potter franchise and I thought that I myself had outgrown my Harry Potter phase. However I was very wrong indeed.
Set in the 1920’s, Eddie Redmayne stars as the magizoologist Newt Scamander. He arrives with a magical leather briefcase full of mystical and extraordinary creatures. After accidentally switching cases with a “no-maj” (normal human) called Jacob, a variety of beasts escape from Newt’s case and into the city. Newt and Jacob must retrieve these beasts from a world, which is under threat from a potential war between the wizarding community and a group of xenophobic no-majs.
The setting of the film is magnificent. New York is depicted as grubby and gothic, which coincides well with the magical element of the story. Introducing magic into this setting emphasises the stylish and Jazzy culture of New York. The visuals are eye-catching and incredible. The CGI makes the extravagant beasts look real and they blend into the story easily – you can almost believe that an avaricious platypus-like “Niffler” is really stealing jewellery! I also liked the fact that there was an underlying theme of a division within society as there is a threat to the welfare of minority groups, which links in well with American society in the 1920’s.
The supporting cast were pretty strong. I felt that Ezra Miller’s portrayal of the abused squib Credence was particularly powerful. Porpentina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), Queenie (Alison Sudol) and Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) added to the humour of the plot and displayed chemistry between them. I felt that the antagonist Percival Graves was a little disappointing, as his secret-cameo-reveal seemed a little underwhelming at the end.
In retrospect our protagonist was outstanding in my opinion. What I particularly liked about him is that he is flawed, yet still fascinating to the audience. Lead characters tend to be strong, headstrong and bold. Harry Potter is a good example of this: he displays courage, a ferocious loyalty to his friends and he isn’t afraid to speak his mind. Newt on the over hand: is shy, timid, rarely makes eye contact with anyone and hides beneath his fringe most of the time. I mean come on his closest friend is Bowtruckle, which lives in his coat pocket!
However it is his fascination with his collection of beasts and his passion to study these beasts, which I think makes him more interesting. As an audience we want to find out more about these fabulous monsters through his desires. Albeit he may not be the stereotypical protagonist, he is still an interesting character with the potential to keep us entertained over a long-term story.
In terms of criticisms I think there is simply too much going on. J K Rowling likes to include every precise detail about every single beast, character and situation. Which is not necessarily a bad thing; it displays her amazing creative imagination and constructs a truly magical world. However it causes the narrative to meander a bit, the film is more than two hours long and quite a few scenes could have been shortened by tighter editing or even erased entirely.
There were several highlights to the film, however I loved it when Newt broke out of MACUSA’s clutches and uses his Bowtruckle and Swooping Evil to save Porpentina. It was just cool how he used his own collection of beasts to his advantage.
It’s a must watch for all J K Rowling fans and I would advise anyone with any pre-conceptions towards the Harry Potter franchise to have a gander and give it a watch.