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Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne). (Photo from MCT Campus)

Fantastic Beasts

December 24, 2016

Let me be honest here: I still have yet to watch the sixth and seventh movies of the Harry Potter franchise, but ever since I started reading the first book a few months ago, I’ve truly been interested into the magical world.

So when I first heard “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” was coming to theaters, I hoped the film would equal Harry Potter (The Cursed Child was rather disappointing). It exceeded my expectations. Fantastic Beasts portrays suspense, action, humor and a thrilling plot, combined with great cinematography and amazing special effects, all while maintaining the magical aura of the wizarding world.

The film trades late 20th century England with 1926 New York City, where MACUSA rules over the wizards and witches instead of the Ministry, and wizarding folk live alongside No-Majs (American for muggles).
Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), a British magizoologist, lands in New York, supposedly to educate his fellow wizards about caring for magical creatures. As he travels through New York, a few creatures escape from Newt’s suitcase, causing minor trouble throughout the city. As Newt chases these creatures, he accidentally misplaces his suitcase with Jacob Kowalski’s, (Dan Fogler) a no-maj. This brings major trouble as dangerous beasts escape the suitcase, dragging Newt, Jacob and other companions into an exciting adventure to track the beasts down before they wreak havoc for both the wizarding and muggle worlds.

One element that I find intriguing about Fantastic Beasts is the successful “genre-mashing”. The movie is clearly a fantasy/action film, but it’s also a drama and a thriller. While the main plot focuses on the action and adventure in recapturing magical creatures, there is a subplot involving Mary Lou Barebone, a radical anti-magic muggle, her adopted son Credence (Ezra Miller) and Percival Graves.

This subplot introduces a darker side to the story, eventually developing into a full scale conflict. But despite this, the film is full of laughter, thanks to Jacob Kowalski, the muggle that is a little confused and dazzled throughout the film. And then there’s always the touch of romance between the characters. These aspects of the film all fold together, creating a powerful story.

Nevertheless, what fantasy film is good without stunning visual effects? Fantastic Beasts was converted into 3D film as well, but it really isn’t necessary to wear 3D glasses to get the “full experience.” The beasts came to life, popping out of the screen and leaving audience members in a trance-like state. The various scenes with the niffler, erumpent and thunderbird made the creatures come alive, always making me yearn for more beautiful scenes of the wondrous creatures.

Speaking of CGI characters, the real life characters are on point as well. From the very first scene, Eddie Redmayne depicts Newt Scamander shy and clumsy manner perfectly, while being serious and determined when called for. Dan Fogler is also the perfect actor to play the humorous and bewildered character Jacob Kowalski. First off, his facial features give him the look of an honest and free-spirited New Yorker, which matches the character of Kowalski as well-kind and well-meaning–but mostly confused and amazed at the magical world. Fogler’s natural humor plays a huge part in developing Kowalski, as this character’s jokes (and sometimes slow wits) make the film lighthearted and comedic when needed.

Although the movie was excellent for the most part, there could’ve been more of the wand action we all love, and even though the characters were well portrayed, it really is hard to care much for them.

Characters such as Porpentina Goldstein were rather underdeveloped. In fact, by the end of the film, I didn’t quite catch her name since I didn’t really feel the need to. Even though Jacob Kowalski is a hilarious figure that can’t easily be forgotten, it’s hard to establish an emotional connection with these characters the way many people do with Harry, Hermione and Ron.

Ultimately, Fantastic Beasts was an very entertaining film, packed with action and suspense. As I walked out of the theater, I felt a little bit reluctant about returning to the Half-Blood Prince. Don’t get me wrong, I love the boy-who-lived, but Fantastic Beasts has created a whole new enchanting world–one that will definitely grow and expand to rival the one of Harry Potter.

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