Thursday, 24 November 2016

Film Review No. 17 Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them (12+)

Strong Points:
Great expansion of the Harry Potter universe
Inventive and original creatures
Clever references to the Harry Potter lore...
Nice characters
Good acting overall
British VS American wizards
A certain reveal
Many twists and turns
Dark but still entertaining
Nice colour correction
Can watch without knowing the universe...

Weak Points:
Some of the CGI seemed off
Less wand magic, more force powers at some points
...But doesn't get bogged down in it
Seemed to forget to capture some creatures
...Although will be harder to follow

Some spoilers ahead:

In-depth Review:
*Hedwig's theme plays* Yes that's right, we're back to the Harry Potter film universe after over 5 years away and it's pretty nice to be back, to be honest. The Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them book is the essential guide to monsters for every budding witch or wizard. But how did it come about? Well, this film is set to answer this question but not only that, as Newt Scamander is actually caught in between growing unrest between wizards and non-wizards, not helped by the fact that Grindelwald is causing havoc throughout the wizarding world. Quite a lot to fit into a film really (and a review) but they do their best.

I heard there were some fantastic beasts in this film right? And there definitely are, I was especially impressed by the originality of some of them, both in appearance and powers. For example, the Niffler, a mole-like creature with a fondness for shiny objects. He was used for mostly comedic devices in the film, as after being re-captured by Newt, he proceeds to shake the Niffler, and gold bars, jewellery and lots of coins fall out. This idea of a small place being bigger on the inside (*cough* Tardis *cough*) is used a lot in this film, with the suitcase also having a charm (similar to Hermione's bag in the 7th book). Other creatures include a creature who can see via probability of events happening and another creature who fills the available space. One note, though - if Newt was meant to capture all the creatures then why didn't he pick up the blue hummingbird creature? Seems like an oversight to leave it there, especially as it was used to show the creatures had escaped in the first place.

The setting of this film is 1920's America and is overall very well presented. Period clothing and props are all over the place and the stereotypical 1920's era activities are prevalent (underground but still classy clubs, ice-skating etc.) A nice touch was the colour correction done in post-production, giving the film a dusty, orange feel, like something you'd get out of an old Hollywood film.

Something which isn't in old America films is CGI, but there's plenty of it on show here, although some parts are better done than others. For some reason, the beginning sequences of showing the creatures seemed... off. Maybe it was a mix of the colour correction, lighting etc. but either the creatures or the people seemed out of focus. The CGI got better, however, and by the time an Obscurus rolled around, I was completely transfixed.

The American versus British magic was something I was looking forward to seeing and I wasn't disappointed. From the no-majs (muggles) to the 'suggestion' that Ilvermorny is better than Hogwarts, we had a lot of comparisons which added humour to the film. We also had plenty of references to the original series including a mention of Albus Dumbledore, Quidditch and even a certain appearance from a certain dark wizard. Some of these were only mentioned in passing (Newt is asked if he is a seeker of the truth and he replies 'I'm more of a Chaser') and seemed to act as a reward for the eagle-eyed fans, which I appreciated.

Overall, I felt the characters in the film were good, if not as recognisable as the ones from Harry Potter (no matter how hard it tries, this film series will keep getting compared to Harry Potter), with special mention to Jacob Kowalski, a non-maj who's along for the ride. He has some of the best lines, and some of his reactions to what happens are what you'd imagine we'd do if we encountered magic. All the actors are great as well, from Eddie Redmayne's signature charm to Colin Farrell's twisted character (who you just couldn't tell when he was lying or not) and Ezra Miller's awesome portrayal of Credence, the adopted son of Mary, the head of the Second-Salemers (a reference to the Salem witch trials). Even Johnny Depp's small cameo was of credit, and I can't wait to see him in the sequels.

Even if the magic in this film was at times fewer spells and more force pushes, the magic of J.K Rowling's imagination was still present. Disapparating, mind-reading, and lock-pickings were all done with a style fit for Harry Potter and the addition of darker material (an execution chamber which makes you happy while you die) allows it to separate itself further from that illustrious franchise.

Conclusion: overall, a fitting entry to the Harry Potter universe and I'm excited to see where Newt Scamander will take us in the sequels

Rating: 85%

Thanks for reading, Satamer.

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