2016 will forever go down as the year of the disappointing blockbuster. Out of the dozens of blockbusters I’ve seen only 5 I would classify as great films. The discouraging thing is so many films have had such potential. Indeed, they have such potential that I buy into the hype and go into the film expecting something great only to be disappointed when leaving.
Well, my friends, you can add another film to this list. The newest spin-off in the Harry Potter world, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, isn’t awful by any means but it is very disappointing.
I should state outright I am not a die-hard Harry Potter fan. I am more of a casual fan but I have recently done my rewatch of the Harry Potter movies over on my channel and I was reminded that they are a bit of a mixed bag. None of them are awful either but I’d say 4 are successful and 4 really are not. You can listen to our podcasts here.
Fantastic Beasts is particularly disappointing because this was the chance to see JK Rowling write a screenplay without any fear of loyalty to a book or other source material. She could just unleash her creativity on the screen, but it ends up being a mostly frustrating experience.
But there are some good things about the film that give it a mild recommendation.
There are two plotlines in Fantastic Beasts. The first involves Newt Schamander (Eddie Redmayne) getting his suitcase switched with a non-magician (muggle in Britain no-maj in US) man named Jacob. Unfortunately Jacob unleashes some of Newt’s magical creatures onto the city of New York and they have to hunt them down.
This search is a lot of fun and it was surprisingly slapsticky. There has always been some humor in the Harry Potter movies but this was long segments of people falling into mud or getting into other shenanigans with the magical creatures. My friend laughed a lot more than I did but it was pleasant entertainment.
I also really liked Jacob and a woman named Queenie played by Alison Sudol. I almost wish the movie had been about the two of them instead of Newt. She lit up the screen whenever she was on it and her ability to read minds was charming and funny.
The music by James Newton Howard was fantastic, capturing the 1920’s speak-easy feel as well as the exquisite costumes by always reliable Colleen Atwood. The beasts were also adorable especially a creature called a niffler. They will probably sell a lot of toys of him at Universal Studios.
I was also never really bored so it’s a harmless film about magic that I suppose hard core fans will love. I wasn’t offended or bored out of mind by exposition like in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.
When I first got out of the theater and did an initial thoughts youtube review where I gave it a B- but now that I’ve thought it over I am going lower because there really are a lot of problems.
The first big issue is with the tone. Like I said, they try way too hard to be funny and then combine that humor with some really dark story-lines I won’t spoil. The sort of B story-line involving Ezra Miller as an orphan named Credence Barebone and his head ‘mother’ played by Samantha Morton is unsettling to say the least. It didn’t gel together very well.
There also wasn’t a clear focus like you had in the Harry Potter movies, which even when unsuccessful were still about Harry and Voldemort growing in strength and their eventual meeting. Evidently there are going to be 4 more movies and I really have no idea where the story is going or what the focus on the series is going to be. This film was half spent playing hide and seek with magical creatures for laughs and the other half fighting a dark demon in New York. Where do you go from here? I really don’t like the Hobbit movies but at least the first Hobbit film was a clear start to a journey and series.
Also, the other big problem I had is in the acting choices made throughout the film. Eddie Redmayne in particular mumbled most of his dialogue to the point where I was constantly leaning over to my friend asking her “what did he just say?” Some other actors were laying on the New York accent very thickly and it made them difficult to understand.
A lot of the actors like Colin Farrell are underused. Academy award winner Jon Voight is in like 2 scenes and Ron Perlman is briefly seen. I guess they could appear more in future installments but it’s odd when you have such well known actors in small roles. I guess they will clear things up in future installments but I found myself confused particularly on the B more scary story-line
In the end, it’s not a horrible movie but I did walk away feeling disappointed. There is fun to be had with the magical beasts and characters like Queenie but it’s hard to endorse a movie when I can’t understand the lead character most of the time.
The tonal problems and lack of overall compelling story are also hard to ignore. Like I said, in my youtube review I gave it a B- but today I am going with a lower grade.
Overall Grade- C
Also, I don’t think this movie is going to appeal to kids much. I think they will find it kind of boring. Both my friend and I agreed on that leaving the theater. But see it for yourself and decide.
28 thoughts on “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Review (Spoiler Free)”
The sequels will likely focus on Grindelwald & Dumbledore.
Grindelwald had a cameo in this film. & Dumbledore’s name was mentioned. They are currently casting Dumbledore.
Speculation is that the films might focus on their gay romance. And incorporate some things and information from ‘Deathly Hallows’ book and films. As The Deathly Hallows necklace had a small appearance in this film.
Also building Tina & Newt’s romance (as they eventually get marry). & Luna Lovegood marries Newt’s grandson Rolf.
& also Newt finishing his book ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them’. I hope we get more magical fantastic beasts.
There’s also the American Wizarding school Ilvermorny, which was mentioned in this film. & also the sort of cliffhanger with Queen & Jacob.
The second film is taking place in Paris.
This first film I feel is a lot of set up for the sequels, but had some interesting characters and fun scenes. I loved the beasts! But its not as great as Harry Potter books and films.
But I think at the very least its worth a watch to check it out.
I still dont think this had the real focus narratively a good starter should have. It introduced us to some characters and ideas but that’s not really the same thing as showing the bigger picture of what the series is going to accomplish.
But yeah there was some fun scenes and characters. For sure
We should also get Dumbledore and Grindelwald’s famous duel.
I guess it must feel like more of a starter for hard core fans who know all that stuff which I don’t
As a Harry Potter fan, I was pretty excited to see ‘Fantastic Beasts’, but the more I’ve heard from how much Warner Bros want to turn this into their next big franchise alongside DC Comics and Godzilla/King Kong the more hesitant I felt. While it’s good that they have Rowling on board to map out the overarching story, not all authors translate well into being screenwriters, but she could still be the creative consultant. The Wizarding World lends itself better to this kind of treatment than Middle-earth because the author is still alive!
At this point, I’ll probably go in with moderated expectations, even knowing that this was not going to be the incredible experience that Harry Potter was. Thanks, Rachel! 🙂
Good review. I seeing this movie tonight, so please do check out my review for the movie tomorrow. I heard that this movie as some problems, so I’m kind of expecting that (going into the movie). But I’m hoping that I’ll like it. I do like Harry Potter!
That’s a big disappointing to hear. I’m seeing the film tonight and I am a huge Harry Potter fan so I’ll let you know what I think. All the reviews I’ve read so far were very positive so I had my hopes up!
Well it’s just one gals opinion. I hope you love it!
As it turns out, I did love it! I do agree that I think a lot was set-up for the rest of the series. And I occasionally had trouble understanding Eddie Redmayne, but I thought he was very good for the part, with the whole “loveable quirky” thing going on. But I found it not only very funny, but also with a lot of depth. I know you don’t have to be a big Harry Potter fan to understand the plot, but I think there are a lot of nuances where having read the books helps. The whole Grindelwald/deathly hallows thing was touched on a lot more in the 7th book than the 7th movie. I think the movie is hinting as some pretty amazing themes and moral quandaries that it will play with in the future that I’m really looking forward to.
I’m so glad you loved it!
I’ve come back from my local screening, and I must say I found it very enjoyable! Even though I am a bigger fan of Middle-earth, Jurassic Park and Star Wars, I do have a tremendous level of love and respect for the Harry Potter books and films, and this film worked far better than I expected it to. I’m still not happy with WB’s obvious schemes for a five film franchise, but this film does stand on it’s own and if it didn’t make enough money that wouldn’t matter too much since it functions perfectly well as a standalone adventure in the Wizarding World.
One thing I would add in addition to what others have said about Eddie Redmayne’s charm and affability as Newt Scamander is that if he were to play The Doctor after Peter Capaldi (which sadly may not happen now), this is very much how I see him playing it!
I’m glad you enjoyed it so much. It is very annoying how they arent letting us decide if it deserves a franchise. I wish it had been more of a stand alone. I wanted to like it more but ended up feeling quite disappointed
Perhaps the moderated expectations you had helped although my expectations weren’t super high. I guess like any film it comes down to what flaws you can ignore because no movie is perfect
You could well be right; my feelings could well change in a few years. Back when The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey came out, a few people did give me funny looks for me saying that I loved it. Hype and fan reaction is a powerful thing. I don’t think ‘Fantastic Beasts’ is as good as the more well-loved installments in the HP Series, but it could have been much more blatant in it’s sequel baiting and been worse off for it.
So I purposefully waited to read your review until I had written mine. Oh my gosh, I don’t think we have ever agreed more perfectly on a film. There’s the good: the chemistry of Jacob & Queenie, the colorful beasts like the Niffler. Then there’s the bad: Eddie Redmayne mumbled dialogue along with the schizophrenic dark tone in a film that was mostly lighthearted. You nailed everything I loved and didn’t. See my review. We are so totally in unison on this.
We totally are. Sorry I was grumpy earlier. But yeah those are the good and bad of the film. You summarized it so well.
I think we actually agree quite often. We’ve just had an off streak lately 😉
Most definitely. As I read this review I was nodding in agreement to every line. We walked away from this movie enjoying and disliking the very same things. It reaffirmed my own opinion. I thought it was good. Perhaps I wasn’t quite as disappointed. However the narrative is still undone by some serious flaws. My excitement was brought to low simmer but never rose to a boil. I’m optimistic about the next film but I’ll keep my expectations in check.
Yeah definitely. As I always say the secret to happiness in life is low expectations. It’s funny because I’m not even that big of a Harry Potter fan so not sure why I felt so disappointed by it. I guess I bought into the hype a bit. But you are right about reading like minded viewpoint. Especially when getting a lot of flack it can be reassuring
Yes! We feel exactly the same about this. I was afraid I was just being overly picky. : ) I was extremely underwhelmed…
It’s always nice to know others agree with me on these more controversial opinions. Oh well. I hope they make the sequels better.
I’m glad it wasn’t only me who found the dialogue hard to follow. The action and animation would have been exciting 10 years ago but is now routine and rather tedious (yet another monster crashing through yet another brick wall). The “recapture the animals” plot has potential but there’s no sense of drama about it, it’s just one monster after another (the classic problem with a story based on magic, you can’t share any sense of danger or challenge if the heroes can get out of any fix by waving a wand). The “hapless baker” comedy angle is hackneyed, and the down-and-out orphans subplot – well, frankly, I never quite worked out where it fitted into the story or how it ended up. And when the goodies and baddies are zapping each other, are we really expected to get anxious or excited about whose zapper will turn out to be more powerful?