Here is something which some of you might find surprising. I liked Fantastic Beasts better than any Harry Potter movies (yes, including the good ones like Prisoners of Azkaban and Deathly Hallows). I am a huge Harry Potter fan and I love all the movies but the books have always been the real deal for me, and the movies (as much as I love them) couldn’t match that magic the book created. Fantastic Beats, however, is a brilliantly made movie, which stays very much true to the familiar Potter universe, while standing out on its own merit.
Approximately seventy years before the events of Harry Potter take place, we see a bumbling, awkward British guy Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne, in a role which he could have done while sleepwalking, given the kind of actor he is) stepping foot on the American soil for the first time, with a suitcase full of (fantastic) beasts and a mission in his head. What follows after is a very engaging, thoroughly entertaining, gripping tale which keeps you at the edge of the seat but gives you time to breathe as well, simultaneously.
Unlike the Potter movies, this one takes a considerable amount of time to build up the story, which actually helps it a lot in the matter of delivering big in the end. The characters are all very well-written and the credit for that goes to J.K.Rowling (in her screenwriting debut). One of the major reasons for me to find this movie actually better than any Potter movies is its writing, and Rowling gets the browny points for that. After the disastrous (and totally unnecessary) Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, this seems like a much-needed comeback for the lady and going by what she has done here, I can safely bet that she is going to stay and make a mark as a screenwriter (which is very different from authoring a novel, make no mistake) in future.
With a perfectly written screenplay in hand, the movie needed a bunch of great actors and a commendable director to succeed and it wins in both the department. David Yates is already familiar with this world and with Fantastic Beasts, he shows that he’s getting better with each movie (it’s a good thing that he is going to direct the future sequels as well). The casting of the movie (like all the Potter movies) is pitch perfect. Redmayne does an excellent job portraying Newt here. The way he changes his body language while talking with human and talking with his beasts in this movie shows what a brilliant actor this guy is. Katherine Waterston manages to impresses by giving a moving yet calculated performance; her particular scene where she bids farewell to Redmayne’s character in the end is one of the most touching movie scenes I’ve seen in recent time. Singer-songwriter Alison Sudol shines in her brief but important role. Erza Miller (We need to talk about Kevin; also The Flash in the upcoming DC movie) impresses a lot. However, it’s Dan Fogler and Colin Farrell are the ones who give two of the standout supporting performances. Fogler has the most lines after Redmayne in the movie, and while he plays the muggle (or no-mag, as the Americans like to call them) sidekick to the protagonist, the character doesn’t get stereotypical at all thanks to JKR’s great writing. Farrell on the other hand, has the most interesting character as throughout the movie you try to figure out what he is really upto. And while he gives an impression of being on the evil side, there are some scenes which implies he might actually be good as well; until the revealing of the big twist, of course. Jon Voight, Samantha Morton, Carmen Egogo, Ron Perlman along with an extremely popular Hollywood superstar rounds off the cast. James Newton Howard’s hauntingly beautiful soundtrack complements all these too well, not to mention.
In a movie like this, getting the CGI right is very important and Fantastic Beasts doesn’t compromise there at all. The CGI is terrific for the most part, thus making the magical action sequences looking really alive. But it’s the little things, like the friendship between Redmayne and Fogler’s characters, the subtle romantic angle between Fogler and Sudol’s character, Redmayne’s tender moments with the vicious, dangerous looking beasts; are the ones that actually make the movie truly memorable.
As what you expect in movies like this, a sort of battle (not exactly a typical good versus evil battle, technically, if you go by the plotline) happens during the end which leaves the New York city in a complete wreckage, along with getting rid of the evil for this installment. The movie could have ended there. But instead of drawing the curtain, they do something very interesting. In an incredibly beautiful sequence, we see NYC getting fixed in a minute thanks to magic which is then followed by a deeply moving humanly climax, which actually elevates the movie to a different level of goodness. When it finally ends, it leaves you with a very likable, warm and fuzzy feeling inside, and you go home with a heart full of happiness.
Fantastic Beasts, in the end, stands as a really nice, endearing entertainer and one of the best movies I have seen in this year so far. Can’t wait to see how the sequels pan out, after this.
Let the magic continue.