Contrary to the rest of the world, I am not a big Harry Potter fan. Yes! I do agree that the Potter films are highly entertaining in their own ways and merit a view or two once or twice a year but still I don’t fan-boy about the films the way most of the other people of the world (apart from Syria and ISIS) do. Having said that, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them literally blew me away by its content, visual prowess and above all its extremely likeable characters. Directed by David Yates who directed the latter half of the Harry Potter films and based on the screenplay by J.K Rowling, the film engrosses you from the word go. It’s a very adult take on an otherwise crazy premise. But what works so well for the film is that it not only takes itself seriously but also shows the amount of respect to itself that would actually make the viewers take it seriously as well.
The plot is a mish mash of three stories. Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) arrives in America with a box full of fantastic creatures with an agenda of his own. As he tries to make his way to Arizona, his box is unwittingly hijacked by a muggle referred to here as no-maj (non- magic folks) who unleashes a few of the creatures on the unassuming town folks. As Newt tries to get his creatures back, he unknowingly gets involved in a war between the traditional wizards and the wizards who believe in their own complete supremacy led by Grindelwald (Johnny Depp). The second story revolves around a dark entity known as the obscure that hides itself within kids and is letting loose at the slightest of pretext. Graves (Collin Farrell), a wizard with the MACUSA in US is hell bent on finding it. He employs the help of a troubled boy named Credence (Ezra Miller) who might come in contact with the kid who houses the obscure. The third story is revealed right at the end of the film and will not be wise to give away in this review.
The biggest plus of the film is its performances. Every character in the film suits his/her role to perfection. Eddie Redmayne is brilliant as the awkward yet very bright Newt. I totally bought his act and he felt very real even when he was making strange body poses and matting calls to capture a rhino-looking beast in heat. His subtle comic scenes with Kowalski (Dan Fogler) and Tina (Katherine Waterston) are some of the high points of his performance. He looks very apt in the action sequences too. Dan Fogler as Kowalski who gets entangled in the hue and cry of “lost beasts and where to find them” is the comic relief of the film. He is naturally funny and has an impeccable comic timing. Some of his best moments come in the company of Alison Sudol who bewitches him with her beauty and magic. Collin Farrell’s character is unusually second fiddle and that is my only complaint with this film. He is a weak baddy and it’s only in the end that his true nature is revealed. Even at that, he still remains unusually average. Katherine Waterston plays her part to perfection.
The next best thing about the film is its visual wizardry. A film about wizards, witches and fantastical beasts had to have visual splendor and this film takes it a step ahead of the Harry Potter franchise. Not only does it go further in character design and amount of impact but also in terms of color palate. This is an extremely colorful film. Every frame is almost dripping with perfectly saturated colors. Highs where required and lows where intended.
The 3D is some of the best that we have seen this year. It’s the second film in quick succession to have come up with such good 3D. Earlier this month we had Doctor Strange which was tailor-made to be made in 3D. Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them is a tad bit different in its treatment of the 3D. It has very few elements popping out of the screen. It uses its 3D to immerse you in the world better. Strangely enough, the colors looked vivid and bright even when seen through the shaded 3D glasses.
The action is relentless and serious. Apart from a few sequences involving an adorable beast that gives you enough giggles for a month, the rest of the action is serious enough to make you stand up and take notice. The final action sequence and some of the chase sequences involving capture of the beasts are breathtakingly filmed. It must be noted that though there is a lot of comedy involved in the narrative, the film has its share of seriousness too. The plot involving Credence borders on adult level seriousness. He plays an extremely troubled young man who is abused by his mother and you feel for his character. There is a lot of suspense involving the Obscure, Credence and his sister which is resolved only at the end. The directory willfully plays with our intelligence and since the characters involved are so likeable, you don’t mind playing along.
Overall, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them achieves what it sets out to. It’s a thrilling ride filled with action, suspense, lovable characters and sparkling visuals. Unlike some of the Harry Potter films, this one will appeal to both adults and kids alike. It also marks the possible beginning of another trilogy as we are introduced to a new villain in the end who is incidentally one of my favorite “crazy actors” of our times. You will have to watch the film to know who it is.
Rating: 4/5 (4 out of 5 Stars)