Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them ★★★

Fantastic Beasts is good, not great. And this comes from a diehard Potterhead. But it's a spinoff that fans will definitely embrace.

I can’t deny that I had a good time getting transported back to the magical world, this time to 1920s New York City. It’s easy to get swept off your feet by Jo Rowling’s masterfully-crafted world because it has all the makings of perfect escapism.

But Rowling’ keenness to explore things in detail and create multiple subplots, something that I relished when I read the Potter novels, doesn’t quite work its magic in the script. I’m sure that this is a world-building effort that I’ll appreciate more when I watch the sequels because the ground has been laid for what's to come. But the overall plot structure is quite poorly constructed.

There’re at least three storylines going on in the movie, and while all of them are nicely developed and converge at one point in the movie, the script could have been tightened up a bit just to sustain the energy throughout the film. For the better part of the movie it felt like a ride around a zoo. It doesn't get its engine rolling until almost all of the the runaway beasts are put back in Newt Scamander's case.

I’ll break down my thoughts on the film.

1. I’ve always thought that Jo’s forte is creating colorful, dynamic characters. And in Fantastic Beasts she did it again. Newt, Jacob, Tina, and Queenie are simply wonderful characters with distinct personalities. Fans will fall in love with them instantly. Redmayne, Waterston, Fogler, and Sudol are all great in their roles.

2. Colin Farrell’s Percival Graves and Ezra Miller’s Credence are given plenty to do in the film. And their scenes are the most intense ones. I found myself gravitating to their storyline the most.

2. The animals are all cute in case you wonder, with the Thunderbird playing a crucial role in the film.

3. Jo fails to address the logic behind some of the scenes, which allows for tons of plotholes. The 'Thunderbird' scene comes across as a convenient plot device to solve a problem.

4. Some of the CGI look so fake they stick out like a sore thumb.

5. I’m still not sure if I like James Newton Howard’s score. I love most of the guy’s work (the “Flying” score for Peter Pan is simply magical) While his Fantastic Beasts score complements the movie well and even gives goosebumps at times, I found it slightly derivative. Some of the pieces reminded me of the Polar Express theme.

6. I still don’t like David Yates’s direction on duel/action scenes. They tend to be short and somewhat dull, unimaginative even. And he just gives us more of the same in this movie. I just wish the duel between Tina and Graves had lasted a bit longer.

7. That being said, I still think the last twenty minutes is the best part of the movie.

8. This is a film with a lot of heart. The ending is pretty emotional and not in a contrived kind of way, but in an inevitable kind of way. Jo knows how to write emotional scenes.

9. I know a lot of people are hating on Johnny Depp's casting as a major character, but I think he's pretty awesome in the movie even though he appears for like 10 seconds.

I will definitely watch it again and I might like it better. A lot of Potterheads will enjoy the movie for sure.

See my 2016 Films Ranked

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