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Does 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them' hold the same appeal as Harry Potter?

Posted November 18

WORLD OF MAGIC — Does “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” hold the same appeal as Harry Potter?

Sometimes the hardest thing about writing reviews for movies that I really enjoy is to not give it all away. I tend to get very excited about the movies that pull me in and hold my attention. "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" is precisely this type of movie.

There is so much to find in this movie that will demand your attention, while letting your imagination get away from you. Let me tell you why while trying not to give too much away:

You don’t have to be a Harry Potter fan to appreciate ‘Fantastic Beasts’

Whether by choice or circumstance, I was never pulled into that black hole found at the center of the Harry Potter universe. This is the place where hardcore fans of the Harry Potter books and films go, never to return to reality as they knew it. I'm talking about the fans that have no problem wearing a prosthetic lightning bolt scar to a job interview.

Before walking into "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them," I was a bit concerned that I could not appreciate this film as I should, since I was not better versed in the Harry Potter canon. This was indeed not the case. I enjoyed ‘Fantastic Beasts" without reservation, and possibly more than a Harry Potter fan burdened by expectation.

There were clearly references to the Harry Potter world, but my familiarity or lack thereof was enough for me to never question at any point what was going on.

Full depth of immersion

One criticism I have of the film is during the opening credits an overt contemporary political overtone is set. I was worried that the entire film was going to play like a commentary on the modern day state of political affairs. This alone would have kept me from enjoying the movie since the last thing any of us need is to escape reality only to have our escape suck us back into the world of politics, kind of like having a dream about going to work.

Fortunately, this turned out to be far less of a problem for me once the story got moving. Soon I found myself very much invested in the mood and experience of this new universe and I forgot to look for any political subtext.

As with all Harry Potter films, the world is completely consuming— there isn’t a single detail not considered or bit of reality not altered in some way to create a magical effect. I noticed visual riddles placed throughout the film, some of which I couldn’t figure out until nearly the end of the movie. I believe that as much of the credit for the appeal of Harry Potter films goes to the people who make them a visual reality on screen as can be given to J.K. Rowling for inventing these worlds in the first place. This level of detailed imagery is rarely equaled in any film I have seen.

The fantastic beasts are indeed fantastic

It must be difficult to create imaginary creatures on screen that are believable but not ripoffs of other things we have seen before. The concept artists for "Fantastic Beasts" did (for the most part) a great job of this, considering how many out-of-this-world animals and creatures exist in other movies. The beasts in this film have distinct personalities as characters that keep the interactions between the real human actors and the animated animals believable and organic.

Excellent character development and acting

The biggest initial draw of this movie for me was the fact that Eddie Redmayne was cast as the lead character, a peculiar wizard named Newt Scamander. I am a huge Redmayne fan since his 2014 role as Stephen Hawking in "The Theory of Everything" for which he won an Academy Award.

However, as I watched Redmayne take up the character in the film, something didn’t feel right. I couldn’t put my finger on it, and it bothered me. I was feeling like he may have made some strange acting choices that weren't working out for him on screen. I felt this way until about halfway through the film when I started noticing consistencies in what he was doing.

Later, it became clear to me why he showed these little idiosyncrasies that at first made no sense. After this realization, my opinion of him went from bad choice maker to genius in two seconds. If you can't tell I am trying my hardest not to give away too much and you will just have to work it out for yourself. Just know that in my opinion Redmayne is a brilliant actor.

I don’t want to neglect the wonderful job done by the other actors in this film, notably Dan Fogler who played the character Jacob Kowalski. Fogler plays the unintended accomplice and nails every aspect of his character. There is also a large dose of Ezra Miller who plays the role of Credence Barebone. Get used to Miller as he will be playing "The Flash" in the DC Comics universe.

Conclusion

With so many things going right for this movie, this new franchise is destined to become a classic. The re-watchability will keep people coming back for a long time, even if they weren't Potter fans from the beginning.

With that being said, there are some things parents will want to be aware of before they take their younger kids to this film. I will let John Clyde explain what a parent should consider in his "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" parent's review Friday.

There is so much more to this film that I would love to discuss, but it’s time for you to go out and see for yourself what I am talking about. Come back and comment because we'd love to hear what you think.

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