“Beware the prequel curse!” That’s what they told me. STAR WARS fans fell ill to it; some say LORD OF THE RINGS devotees too. Would HARRY POTTER enthusiasts suffer the same fate?
I didn’t dare get excited about FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM. I avoided all press, not even reading a synopsis. Of course I’d read the book, but as it’s a mock textbook and has no narrative, it gave little indication of what to expect.
I entered the cinema somewhat apprehensively…
FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM is set some 70 years before our beloved bespectacled boy wizard gets underway.
The year is 1926. Newt Scamander, fresh from a global excursion documenting extraordinary magical creatures, arrives in New York where he accidentally trades cases with a muggle, and his creatures are set loose. Add to this the backdrop of Grindelwald’s rise to power and we’ve got ourselves a sufficiently layered and entertaining story.
As an overprotective fan, I was worried about the American setting. My concerns were unnecessary. In the safe hands of four time HARRY POTTER director David Yates, FANTASTIC BEASTS presents a foreign wizarding world that’s different enough to be fascinating, yet familiar enough to still give us warm fuzzies.
Following fully-fledged wizards has its perks too. Unlike Harry, Hermione and Ron whose powers were still developing, Newt and co. are most accomplished. This makes for some exciting magic! It comes thick and fast.
We have a lovely cast: Eddie Redmayne is the king of awkward yet likeable. He is supported by the most adorable Dan Fogler as the loveable muggle Jacob, and Alison Sudol as the ditsy mind-reading Queenie. Add to the mix Colin Farrell and Johnny Depp, and it’s undeniably a talented bunch.
My only complaint with the performances is the over use of crying. It seems our actors were keen to work out those tear ducts….or else Yates was feeling overly hormonal and mis-directed the emotion. Do we really need Eddie welling up at the drop of a hat? Methinks not. A small gripe, but a gripe none-the-less.
The SFX are top notch (no repeat of that rushed CGI as seen in THE PHILOSPHERS STONE). The sets are truly magical and the costuming familiar yet fresh.
While he’s no John Williams (who scored the first three HARRY POTTER films and penned that oh-so-recognisable Hedwig’s Theme) composer James Netwon Howard’s soundtrack successfully captures the essence of Williams, Patrick Doyle, Alexandre Desplat and Nicholas Hooper who came before him. Yet it is suitably different, so as to match this new magical community in which we found ourselves.
Despite numerous delightful injections of comedy, be warned this flick is not as kid-friendly as HARRY POTTER. It has been made with an adult audience in mind, which is jarring in some ways if you are attached to the source material. Yet J.K Rowling has made it clear FANTASTIC BEASTS is no prequel: It is another story simply set in the same world.
FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM is a near perfect balance of the old and the new. With enough to keep traditional Harry fans happy, yet not falling into the trap of “same old, same old”. What a treat to be given the chance to delve a little deeper into this magical world we grew to know and love.
Quite simply; I loved it. My only query: Why didn’t Newt just “accio magical creatures!” It would have saved him a lot of hassle. I rate it 8 stars.