Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Director: David Yates
Writer: J.K. Rowling
Prequel to: Harry Potter
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan FoglerAlison Sudol, Colin FarrellSamantha Morton, Ezra MillerFaith Wood-BlagroveJenn MurrayCarmen EjogoJon Voight, Ron PerlmanZoë KravitzJohnny Depp 
Seen on: 26.11.2016

Newt (Eddie Redmayne) studies and keeps magical creatures. But the political situation in the UK is becoming more and more difficult for them, so he makes his way to the USA where he hopes to find them a new life, even if it means hiding the creatures from immigration in a magic suitcase. But magical creatures aren’t the only one affected by politics – in fact, there’s only a very tentative peace between the non-magical and the magical world. Everything could be going easily, but Newt takes the wrong suitcase and it’s baker – and decidedly non-magical human – Jacob (Dan Fogler) who walks off with the creatures, while Newt gets arrested by the recently demoted auror Tina (Katherine Waterston). Chaos ensues – chaos that is more closely connected to the political uproar than it first appears.

I’m not a huge Harry Potter fan myself (read all the books and saw all the films though), so the news of Fantastic Beasts didn’t leave me very excited – and neither did the film itself. It’s sweet and I was entertained, but if it wasn’t connected to the Harry Potter phenomenon, I doubt that it would be a film that stays with people.

The biggest selling point of the film are the creatures themselves, and they are very well done. The special effects are generally great and with the creatures, it combines those with absolute cuteness – a very winning constellation. And who hasn’t dreamed of a farm of magical creatures at one point in their lifetime?

But the story itself was done with less love than the creatures. It was completely predictable and it felt like it tried so very hard to surprise. The predictability of the plot was also connected to the characters that fit the usual tropes down to the last: the no-nonsense police woman who gets saddled with a chaotic male partner, the fat comic relief and I won’t name the other tropes for risking to spoil the film, but believe me, they were there.

That’s not to say that the characters weren’t likeable, because they were, particularly Jacob and Queenie (Alison Sudol) were absolute highlights, both with regards to characters and performances. The cast was generally strong, and I shall be forever grateful for the combination of Ezra Miller and Colin Farrell, because hot damn (though more in interviews outside of the film. The role was not particularly flattering for Miller). That being said, [SPOILER] replacing Colin Farrell with Johnny Depp [/SPOILER] has got to be one of the worst casting decisions in the history of casting decisions. Although it wasn’t quiet as stupid as casting only white people to run around in New York. Seriously, there is not one non-white face in the background and there are practically no people of color in the film at all (apart for the scene where the international council can be seen).

Overall, it’s a nice film and it’s fun to watch but it could have been so much more interesting if it had dared to break the mold a little bit (maybe by looking at Native American magic as you make your way to the USA with the franchise, instead of focusing on the white people). But they played it safe and the outcome is just as safe: you know when to laugh, when to aww, who to root for and who to hate. It’s perfectly alright, but it was definitely not enough for me to create an emotional connection.

Summarizing: Alright.

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