Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them full movie review - Fantastic film! Where to find it? Your local movie theatre (duh)...
So the Harry Potter theme lives on...and is now apparently the Fantastic Beasts theme too (so no chance of getting it out of your head anytime soon).
This film starts quite dark, which immediately sets it apart from the first HP film, with some destruction and lots of zooming in on/twirling around newspaper articles. Despite attempts to explain what's going on, it's a wee bit disorientating. I liked it more once we met Newt Scamander and his suitcase which contained the fantastic beasts of the movie's title. I'd first seen Eddie Redmayne in Tess of the D'Urbervilles, The Pillars of the Earth and a few other things before he became well-known/an Oscar winner, but even in those earlier projects there was something about him that caught my attention. I found him quite captivating to watch and he was certainly different to your typical 'leading man material', so it's no surprise to me that he's been as successful as he has and garnered well-deserved attention/praise in his later work. Obviously that's part of the reason why he was chosen to portray this role, and I think he does an admirable job with a character that requires him to be somewhat twitchy, not overly talkative and kind of hard to get a read on. However, one thing that's crystal clear is how much Newt cares about his fantastic beasts, which instantly made me like the guy. Redmayne is completely believable in his shared scenes with these wondrous creatures, and it's his performance (along with the dazzling CGI that brings them to life) which ensures you're invested in them and their fate/relationship with Newt.
Not far into the movie we're introduced to three out of the four leads. After Newt, we're introduced to Katherine Waterston's Porpentina 'Tina' Goldestein and Dan Fogler's Jacob Kowalski. I'm not overly familiar with either actor's previous work, but both make memorable first impressions here. Jacob is a "No-Maj" (in other words Muggle) baker who just wants to start up his own bakery, but is quickly drawn into the world of magic. Fogler conveys Jacob's wonder and perpetual confusedness extremely well; his reactions make for many great moments throughout. He also has nice buddy chemistry with Redmayne, which helps you buy their quickly-developed friendship.
Waterston's equally brilliant as the film's female lead. She has a rather difficult role, as it would've been quite easy for her to come across as rather a 'stick-in-the-mud' character type who only causes problems for the two male characters. Thankfully, that's not the case. Waterston's performance gets across Tina's warmth/kindness/likability where other actresses may not have been able to and she works well with the other two. Rounding out our 'core four' is her character's sister, Queenie, played perfectly by Alison Sudol who is instantly likable in the role. It's not hard to see why Jacob is so taken with her upon their first meeting (which is one of the first particularly memorable scenes in the movie). All four actors instantly gel and got me invested in them. You know they work when towards the end there's a deeply emotional scene involving one character's departure from the group and it's actually very effective, as already you've grown attached to them.
I was less into the other side of the story/other characters, such as Ezra Miller's Credence, Colin Farrell's Graves and all the drama surrounding them. Miller's good in his overly twitchy (though understandably so, once you find out what's going on with him) role, but for a large chunk of the movie I just wasn't really sure what his deal was, and even afterwards, I just wished to get back to the main four (which was the case whenever the movie diverted attention away from them, as THEY were the characters I actually *cared* about). Farrell plays his usual smarmy self, though you think for a while that maybe there's more to him than first appears...which, actually, there *is* (it's just not that he's secretly nice or anything). The characters he mainly interacts with are the ones I'm not overly fond of. No one's necessarily 'bad' in their roles; it's just that they're not particularly likable either. Johnny Depp's cameo will likely be divisive, but I thought he was effective enough in his barely-a-minute's worth of screen time.
Far more likable are our main foursome and the many fantastic beasts that we meet who Newt has set up safe environments for all contained within his suitcase (which kind of acts like a TARDIS in the way that it appears bigger on the inside). Some real imagination has gone into thinking up/bringing to life these amazing creatures, two of my favourites being the Niffler (aka the one which looks like a platypus and is obsessed with bling) and a Thunderbird named Frank. These beasts are the real standouts of the movie (which is only fair/makes sense, given they're in the movie's title).
Setting this movie apart from the HP films is that everything is quite often gloomily lit (which adds to the more 'mature' feel), there's less 'silliness' and most of the actors are highly accomplished (thereby ensuring no cringe-worthy moments like were present with some of the child actor's performances in the early HP films). I knew very little about this movie going into it, and I'm sure I missed lots of references the book readers will have caught (though I noticed what I thought were nods to moments from the previous movies). This movie's very different to what came before in the HP franchise, and whilst there was some stuff I wasn't that into (the beginning of the film cut between different scenes/characters a bit too much for my liking. Just as I was starting to get a handle on characters and what was happening, we'd jump to somewhere else), on the whole I liked our new core group of characters and look forward to seeing further adventures of theirs...not to mention, of course, many more fantastic beasts!