Say the words ‘Harry Potter’ to anyone and they are 99% going to know what you are talking about. In fact it’s a franchise that’s swept the world, with two theme park attractions, endless screenings (still) and an eight billion pound intake from the box office. Not to mention the merchandising that alone renovated in seven billion. I could go on, but the point is, for a film such as ‘Fantastic Beasts and where to find them’ to be realised, it had to live up to the already massive scale that the ‘Potter’ films had left behind.
If it wasn’t already quite clear, I am one of those ‘Harry potter nerds’ I love it. That’s why I was extremely excited to watch Fantastic beasts and where to find them, dragging my roommates along with me, and honestly, it was fantastic. Set in the 1920s in New York, the story follows ‘Newt Scamander’ played by Edie Redmayne, who is carrying a case of ‘magical’ animals, until one by one they start to escape. With the help of ‘Tina Goldstein’ played by ‘Katherine Waterson’ who is a fired Auror from the American ministry of magic, her sister ‘Quinine’ played by ‘Allison Sudol’ and a ‘muggle/no maj’ ‘Jacob’ played by ‘Dan Fogler’ they spend twenty four hours tracking down the animals while destruction comes to New York in the form of an ‘Obscuro’. It’s a lot to take in, I’ve seen the film and read the screenplay and I’m still confused by it. But ‘Fantastic beasts and where to find them’ does succeed in every way a blockbuster can. In particular the graphic design/special effects of the film put the previous Potter’s to shame. The New York Skyline built up in the 1920s partly gets destroyed towards the ending of the film, by the animals and the Obscuro that look beyond real. They’re not the first film to have CGI animals this year, with the lie action ‘Jungle book’ grasping the same views. I saw the film in 2D but for those having seen it in 3D, I can only imagine what those scenes would have looked like, they were mesmerizingly stunning. From watching the film, you can tell that most of the sets are green screened, it has the same visual looks as the previous Potter films have, maybe this is due to the same director taking over again. ‘David Yates’ directed the last four films of the Harry Potter series, and there is a striking cinematic likening to ‘the deathly hallows’ to fantastic beasts. It’s a lot darker than I thought it was going to be, there is a small plot story with a Salem witch hunter, which leads the story in a completely different direction with ‘Credence’ portrayed by ‘Ezra Millar’ and a ministry official ‘Percival Greaves’ portrayed by ‘Colin Farrell’. This background story gave the film the depth it needed, that if I’m honest, some of the Harry Potter films didn’t have.
The main attraction in this film to me was the plot, but other than that, if you really look into the scale of this film it is clear to see what was put into to its production. In Soho, London, there is a company called ‘House of MinaLima’. They designed all the art work for the Harry Potter films and Fantastic Beasts, last weekend I went to their exhibition in their London store and was in awe at what they produced, and the level of detail that went into a newspaper, a flyer or a poster that maybe wouldn’t even get screen time. Likewise to this, the costumes, having the film set in the 1920s, are absolutely wonderful. When a film grabs your attention to the Mise En Scene, it has clearly succeeded in something. Following on from the theme of Mise En Scene, the acting is a refreshing view of actors (without seeming rude) I have never heard of before, apart from a few. They allowed me when watching it, to not associate them with any of their other characters before, which all in all made the film an adventure to get ‘lost’ in. similarly with ‘Edie Redmayne’ he has previously portrayed characters from a period setting with ‘The Danish Girl’ (2015) and ‘The Theory of everything’ (2014). He is a well-established actor in this genre, the role for him as Newt was beyond fitting.
It’s hard to hide my enjoyment for cinematic scoring, and even if you don’t like Harry Potter you will be familiar with the music. The score for Fantastic beasts was composed by ‘James Newton Howard’ he is known for the later ‘Batman’ films, for which ‘the Dark Knight’ was nominated for several awards. The music in Fantastic Beasts is a mixture of the fantasy twinkle of Harry potter mixed with the retro glam of the 1920’s jazz era. It opens the film in a truly exciting way, letting the music talk. Towards the end of the film when the (spoiler, kind off) huge plot twist made several of the audience members around me gasp, the music is there with a dark undertone to it, that leaves the excitement and questioning of the next instalment. The music absolutely works in this film, its magical on its own, without the screen to act as a guide for it.
On the whole, ‘Fantastic Beasts and where to find them’ was even better than I expected it to be. Returning to such a big and loved series after five years, can often impact the critical response of the film, yet with a rating of 7.9 on IMDb and 77% on Rotten Tomatoes, there is no doubt that this series will only continue to grow. Perhaps this has something to do with J.K Rowling herself penning the film. It’s so beyond exciting to me, and I should think to so many billions of other people, that a series which has impacted the world so much is now back and telling a whole new aspect of the ‘wizarding world’. I just can’t wait to see what J.K Rowling will do next.