Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016) Film Review

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Newt Scamander, a British wizard, arrives in New York with a case full of magical creatures. Having breached his suitcase, Newt’s creatures roam the city which is already in the midst of its own magical unrest.

I’ll be clear from the outset; I’ve grown up with the Potter series, it formed a large part of my childhood. I really wanted to like this film but I was left disappointed by its somewhat generic story and the rehashing of old plot devices.

While the Potter series’ real magic lies in its relatable characters, I found Fantastic Beast’s protagonist, Newt, to be a very amiable but passive soul. He undoubtedly adores the creatures in his care but did nothing to make me concerned about their fate or his own. Similarly, while Hogwarts and the wizarding world we’ve grown to love are intricately unusual in their existence, this film is set in a mostly normal looking New York meaning the spells and other magical devices that do appear feel very disjointed in relation to the setting, as though they don’t belong there, which immediately puts the film on the back foot.

In terms of the plot, I found it to be akin to that of the Ghostbusters reboot. Aside from hunting down his missing pets, Newt and the chums he finds along the way end up trying to combat the ‘evil’ menace that’s haunting the city. The evil menace being a very nondescript villain that it’s hard to be afraid of. I didn’t find the stakes very high at all and the climax of the whole thing is lazy – it rehashes the old ‘evil dressed as good’ trick used in both The Philosopher’s Stone and Goblet of Fire to less than surprising effect.

While the screenplay tries to convey notions of acceptance, that we should care for all beings in this world (human or otherwise) and allow everyone or thing to be exactly what it desires; it failed to make me actually feel anything.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all terrible. The visuals of 1920’s New York are quite beautiful, the ensemble characters well cast and the fantastic beasts themselves a nice addition to the movie universe. The Niffler – a platypus/mole-esque creature with magpie like tendencies – and Newt’s clingy pet Bowtruckle inject some much-needed humour into the proceedings, but neither were enough to save this film from being mediocre. For me, this incarnation of the wizarding world didn’t have that magic spark. Overall, I give Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them a rating of 3/5.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is now available on DVD/Blu-Ray* and Amazon Video*!

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