J.K. Rowling’s The Wizarding World has enthralled fans since her books were published in the late 90s followed by the phenomenal Harry Potter series during the 2000s. Given that the franchise is one of the most lucrative (if not, the most lucrative during the start of this century), it’s no wonder that the studios would want a piece of the film universe cake and keep milking it for more revenue.
2015 saw the film adaptation of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, starring Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander. Picking up a few months after the events of the first movie, dark wizard Gellert Gridelwald (Johnny Depp) escapes from prison and begins searching Paris for the Obscurus, Credence (Ezra Miller). Newt is convinced by a younger Albus Dumbledore played by Jude Law, to travel to Paris and find Credence before Grindelwald does.
While the story is not the strongest (the many convoluted subplots steer the story away from the magical qualities of the previous installment), the production values and visuals are amazing. While hardcore Harry Potter fans might be somewhat disappointed/angered at the multiple choices Rowling (who wrote the screenplay) made to depart from established magical lore, the film is an enjoyable watch for those in the mood for a good evening entertainment. Redmayne shines as the awkward Newt, whose fascination with magical creatures is more than his attraction towards the opposite gender. Jude Law does a great job infusing life to a younger version of Hogwarts’ to-be headmaster. We are yet to see the battle for the Elder Wand, which I believe the sequels will make up for (3 more of these!). While Johnny Depp’s casting of the dark wizard has been met with mixed reactions online, he brings his usual flair and eccentricity into the role but he does not yet make as formidable villain as Voldemort did. Katherine Waterstone’s Tina Goldstein had much less screen time compared to the previous film but redeems herself during the latter half of the movie.
The previous movie ended with a plot twist and this one goes down the same alley, a pattern which does seem to work for these films as they bring in the crowd for the next movie and I am excited to see where they go with the next movie. The rivalry between Dumbledore and Grindelwald was mentioned in passing and was later a key plot point during the final two Harry Potter films but Dumbledore’s backstory has pretty much been kept in the shadows. The movie has already faced controversy, not only with Depp’s casting but also Nagini (Voldemort’s snake and Horcrux) being played by an Asian woman (Claudia Kim). The main issue with the film lies in trying to tie together so many stories related to family history and trying to establish more plot threads for future installments. Additionally, adapting a small book into a multi-picture series has a history of trouble, as evident with The Hobbit film series. However, this magical world has enough established lore on which to expand and I really hope that the next few films do a better job at connecting plot threads with character-building.
While some Potterheads and adults might find the story problematic, this is surely a film that younger audiences will tremendously enjoy despite certain dark themes, its redeeming quality being the magical visuals which are best viewed on a big screen.
Courtesy of Akash SK