Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)
The magical, enchanting & breathtaking mythology of J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world was brought to cinematic life through the collective wizardry of an epic ensemble that dazzled the hearts & minds of muggles around the world for the first decade of the new millennium and became a worldwide phenomenon that saw an entire generation of viewers grow old with Harry, Ron & Hermione. The Harry Potter saga still remains one of the most beloved works of literature and its film adaptation is just as cherished, if not more.
Over the course of a decade, those seven remarkable novels were adapted into eight feature films, each one a critical & commercial success that left its imprint in the hearts of its audience. And once the saga had run its entire course and it was time to say goodbye, the series bid farewell to its fans with an epic finale that was just as nostalgic as it was fitting. But we are living in an age where no franchise is allowed to rest in peace, and so the magical world of J.K. Rowling is back again with a spin-off that doesn’t have an ounce of the original’s magic.
A wholly pointless, superfluous & unwarranted return to the wizarding world that also marks Rowling’s screenwriting debut, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a dull, needless & absolutely redundant spin-off that nobody ever asked for and is worse than even the weakest Harry Potter film. Lacking a well-defined set of characters, far too preoccupied with its beasts that aren’t even that fantastic, and devoid of all the elements that made its predecessor so delightful & captivating, this subsidiary of a much superior franchise isn’t worth a dime.
A spin-off of the Harry Potter film series that is inspired from J.K. Rowling’s book of the same name, the story of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them takes place 70 years before the events of Harry Potter and follows the adventures of Newt Scamander, an eccentric & introverted magizoologist who arrives in New York City with a suitcase full of magical creatures but soon finds himself being chased by American wizarding authorities after his suitcase mix-up with a muggle (or No-Maj) results in several creatures escaping into the city, thus threatening the exposure of the magical world.
Directed by David Yates, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them opens with the iconic “Hedwig’s Theme” and then, over the course of its runtime, goes on to show why it’s not even worthy of that notable track from John Williams. There is an actual attempt to create its organic world from scratch but it indulges in so many trivial moments that add nothing to the narrative plus it moves at such a tiresome pace that the interest fizzles out soon enough, thus allowing boredom to set in real quick. Yates’ direction is substandard, for he is really unable to keep the narrative compelling but the fault mainly lies with the script.
Written by J.K. Rowling in what’s her first attempt at penning a script, the film features an original storyline that only lifts characters from her book of the same name, since the source material doesn’t contain any story and is more a glossary than an actual novel. With the assistance of CGI, the magical creatures do come alive in splendid detail but the human figures inhabiting the story lack a sturdy arc, and have nothing at all to compel the viewers into investing in their journey. It’s a terribly written screenplay that fails to make a positive impression and this was unexpected from the revered author.
Production design team does well to recreate the 1920s New York setting, and its set pieces are sumptuously decorated. Cinematography utilises colour tones that provide a slightly vintage feel to its images. The film makes excessive use of CGI yet the segments they are applied to remain hollow from within. The creatures are brilliantly designed & rendered but they feel more like props than characters of any significance. Editing is poorly carried out, for its 133 minutes runtime is severely felt and fails to keep the interest alive, while James Newton Howard’s score is only mildly effective.
Coming to the performances, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them features a fine cast in Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Colin Farrell, Ezra Miller & others yet none of them leave a lasting impression, possibly because the characters they play aren’t refined enough in the script. Redmayne comes off as a tad too eccentric in the role of Newt Scamander, Fogler plays an oafish muggle, Waterston isn’t remotely interesting in her role, Sudol is an overdose of sugarcoated mediocrity, Farrell at least tries to make his character stand out, while Miller does well with what he’s given.
On an overall scale, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is arguably the worst thing to come out of J.K. Rowling’s imagination and is as lifeless in storytelling as it is bland in characterisation. Failing to bring anything new to the table, it is a tediously crafted, awfully written & shoddily narrated fantasy and is so lacking in originality & creativity that it qualifies more as a cash-grab than some genuine attempt at creating something new & exciting. And what’s worse is that there are already four more sequels lined up for production. Overlong, uninspiring & frustrating, the new era of J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world is off to an extremely disappointing & instantly forgettable start, and is anything but fantastic.