Film Review · Uncategorized

‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ (2016) Review ★★★★★


Photos from imdb.com, ©Warner Bros Entertainment

Well, my goodness. It’s the film we’ve all been waiting for, and it has not disappointed. We’ve landed back in the wizarding world of Harry Potter with a rip-roaring bump, and a feature that promises to be the beginning of a successful franchise.

As aesthetically stunning piece, Yates’s film is simply beautiful to behold, packing in the visual punches one after another. The cinema was filled with sighs of appreciation for the visual effects onscreen, each vision layering in and amongst one another in a tapestry of mystique and splendor. Humour runs rampant throughout the film, too: huffs of wry of amusement at the subtleties of workplace stereotypes are balanced with an outright bark of rib-tickling glee as yet another wizard or muggle falls afoul of magical slapstickery. The purity of Newt Scamander’s love for his suitcase-lodging beasts brings the whole piece together: this is a man who wishes to study and educate wider world about the beauty of the world we live in, and you don’t have to be a wizard to be tickled pink by the exploits of his various charges or stunned by the spectacular regality of others.

Photos from imdb.com, ©Warner Bros Entertainment

It’s hard not to be swept away within the escapism of this film: beautiful creatures, magical hijinks, amorous misadventures with musk and hungrily applied hotdog mustard lipstick. But what turns this film from popcorn pleasure into a genuine masterpiece of cinematic value is the incorporation of all-too-human moral shadows amidst the splendor of magic.


Photos from imdb.com, ©Warner Bros Entertainment

The film is roughly divided into two plots: the hapless happiness of Eddie Redmayne’s Newt Scamander’s blunders upon his arrival in 1920s New York overlays the murky segregation of magical and non-magical communities. Fear runs rampant throughout the narrative: the wizarding community has placed bans on the possession and breeding of magical creatures lest the animals discover the underground society, and this suppression of the natural creatures of their world has bred mistrust in the face of ignorance. Paralleling this thread is the active seeking, exposure and damnation of magic by the antagonistic Mary Lou, played by Samantha Morton. This cinematic crucible of New York foreshadows the political and social trauma of McCarthyism: in the sinister sincerity of Mary Lou’s zealous efforts, we see a very literal witch hunt.

Photos from imdb.com, ©Warner Bros Entertainment

Without revealing too much of the plot for those still to see the film, there is continual evidence of binary divisions throughout the narrative which ably demonstrate the hypocritical pluralities within every society. Kind turns on kind to survive in a politically divided world: ironically, it is the eponymous beasts themselves which set the examples for their human counterparts to follow. The supposedly cultured specie mingle within their own cultures, divided by invisible  barriers of magi and non-magi, their mistrust creating tension and cultural prejudices that demand societal purification.

Any of this sounding familiar? Witch hunts? Beasts in cages for the “protection of others”? Unwelcome creatures removed from protected lands? Governments taking extreme measures for the greater good of the people? Speciesism? Strip away the fuzzy animals, astounding visuals and the bumbling if rather handsome hero, this is a very dark film. At once an exhibit of pure escapism and critical sociopolitical narrative, Yates and Rowling have crafted a truly cerebral feature that entertains as it debates, that softens the harshness of the world outside the cinema walls whilst publicly screening all of the negative aspects of humanity. There have been murmurs about the gender and ethnic white-wash given to this film, and though I can see what might have caused this outcry I do find myself disagreeing with the nay-sayers. In the world of the ignorant non-magi, there is a predominance of colourless faces and dull personalities: step into the wizarding world, however, and all of the diversities and colours of multicultural life swoon out of the  fourth wall for the spectator’s delight. Smokey gin-dives are seduced by the siren song of a coloured goblin homage to Billie Holiday; trolls sit quietly at tables, pinky raised as he sips his pint of giggle-water; wizards and witches of all races come together to debate proceedings upon the neutral platform of a political stage where every voice is given a chance to be heard. One of the most powerful roles is ably embodied by Carmen Ejogo: a woman of colour, in possession of powers which would once have demonised her, in a position of great authority in a staunchly patriarchal society? Could the pros for the wizarding community be shouted at greater volume please, I don’t think we heard it at the back…!

It is the world of the uninformed that bleaches the vibrancy of life and endangers progression, and perhaps this is the final message of the film. As Newt philosphically and poignantly says to his future paramour: there is nothing dangerous about his beasts except the ignorance of those who do not wish to learn.

Photos from imdb.com, ©Warner Bros Entertainment

‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ is a triumph of film making. While it may not the best film to be released this year, it is by no means the worst, and its multifaceted construction gives something for everyone to enjoy. Want something to alleviate the burdens of the world for an hour or two? The beasts can do that. Want to regain some faith in humanity? The plucky Auror Tina will do that for you in a heartbeat. Want to see something magical? Then you will not be disappointed. Want a sprinkling of A-lister cameos? Grab yourself a ticket, a seat and some popcorn: they’re there, but where?

Currently screening across the UK, rated 12A  UK cinemas. Running Time: 2hr 13min.

Director: David Yates
Writer: J K Rowling
Starring: Eddie Redmayne; Colin Farrell; Carmen Ejogo; Katherine Waterson; Samantha Morton; Alison Sudol; Dan Fogler; Jon Voight; Ron Perlman; Johnny Depp.

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