(Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, 2016 – Warner Bros.)
I must admit that I am not the biggest fan of the Harry Potter film series nor the books. This might have something to do with the fact I haven’t read all the books, a task I am currently undertaking thanks to being given the audio books over the summer. I’m currently on book four and it is quite evident that while the films were a success critically and received warmly by fans worldwide, the films struggle to capture the wealth of information and the world that J.K Rowling puts on paper, reading the books is a much more rewarding experience. I feel that the films do the best that they can though, with a book of this nature being extremely difficult to adapt and please everyone. This issue led to me being quite negative on the announcement of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, from the knowledge that spin-offs rarely work and manage to capture what was previously successful while becoming their own thing. This may stem from being scarred forever by that one episode of Joey I watched. Though, in this occasion I have been proven wrong.
It is not to say that the film doesn’t have flaws, but I became intoxicated in the story – more so than any of the 8 Novel adaptions.This is because the film isn’t tied to any source material and doesn’t suffer the loss of insignificant details which somehow boost the whole narrative. By skipping the novel stage Rowling has been able to flesh out this story into something remarkable, something that works as a film because it is written first as a screenplay. The film’s narrative is also not restricted to the format of a school year, the cast is not massive (not a school of characters) and this makes for the opportunity to flesh out major characters more, and not risk annoying fans by omitting particular characters or combining two characters into one . Of course, the film does benefit from being in the same wizarding world, but it doesn’t rely on this fact. The opening Warner Bros. title is instantly recognisable in partnership with John William’s iconic leitmotif, but the score suddenly swings into its own thing as if to signify a departure from the existing series – a really clever use of music by James Newton Howard. Director David Yates trusting partnership with Rowling seems to have been beneficial in approaching a new story in a world he is already comfortable in.
Some silly things to happen though. 50 percent of the film mad Michael Bay-esque building destruction, another ten percent is building restoration. These moments are necessary, but overused sadly, as if to provide an argument for the large CGI budget I presume. I personally don’t like Eddie Redmayne’s method of acting, though this socially awkward charm seems to fit the character well in this instance. The rest of the leads are strong and unique, building to an emotional ending which really holds a great pay off. The nods to the books are subtle and rewarding when spotted, but get the balance just right along side new material. The narrative is cleverly referring to the Salem Witch trials and other events which provide the whole film with a greater punch, much like how American Horror Story uses real events. It is rare for me to come out of a film of this manner having had such a good experience, but for me Fantastic Beasts seems to be hitting the right notes. I would not call it a prequel, it is its own thing to enjoy. I look forward to watching it again and seeing what comes next – and I love the fact the next chapter does not already exist in book form.