Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a film which struggles to find its balance. In many ways, the film is what could only be described as ‘Harry Potter for Adults’, in several other ways, however, it is the most childish of them all. Nevertheless, it is undeniable that a great amount of talent went into the creation of this film. Visually, it is by far both the most beautiful and most creative film of the entire franchise. Its bold use of colour is refreshing in the era of grey, so-called ‘gritty’ films, and a great amount of detail, effort and attention was placed into the design of every single creature, as well as their living environment within the story. The same can be applied to the noticeably simple and beautiful costume design, as well as the wonderfully creative and detailed set design. Beyond that, however, it is somewhat of a mixed bag.
The story about a British wizard fascinated by magical creatures and deeply passionate about their rights, entering the United States in the 1920s only to be forced to find and capture the beasts he himself has lost through an incident with his magical suitcase entertaining with a complex plot line about hatred, prejudice and child abuse is- convoluted, to say the least. The thematic clashes within the story are quite jarring. On the one hand, Colin Farrel (Percival Graves), Ezra Miller (Credence) and Samantha Morton (Mary Lou all deliver deliciously twisted performances with immense talent and dedication to a storyline which, while wonderfully rich and intriguing, seems much too dark for children to enjoy. However, while Eddie Redmayne (Newt Scamander) and Katherine Waterson’s (Porpentina Goldstein) characters are charming and have obvious chemistry, and while their storyline is generally as simple, sweet and enjoyable as one would expect from such a film, it lacks depth. Most frustrating of all is Dan Fogler’s character, Jacob Kowalski, who is little more than a bland comic relief character of little interest. The comedy aspect of the film is quite definitely its weakest point, while all characters are generally charming and interesting (including Dan Fogler’s character), the childish, slapstick humour of the film turn them into stereotypes with a rather random assortment of quirks.
Ultimately, this film’s biggest fault is in not knowing its target audience. The emotionally complex storyline in which Ezra Miller plays the central character would have been delightful for nostalgic adults to explore, giving the franchise a different layer of complexity by exploring and addressing the abuse which was merely hinted at in the original film franchise (the novels, of course, do a much better job at delving into this aspect). Meanwhile, the lovely story about a man capturing strange and wonderful animals and attempting to understand and appraise them could have made a touching, simple, and sweet children’s film, in the same vein as, say, How To Train Your Dragon. This hesitation, the flipping back and forth between two entirely different styles creates an emotional barrier which stopes both storylines from reaching their potential, the lazy, uninspired slapstick humous feels like an insult to the rest of the film. It snaps the viewer out of their investment, as opposed to lightening the mood, and it becomes far more difficult to explore the main character’s child-like wonder with the dramatic and somewhat terrifying second storyline in mind. All in all, the film has a lot of great elements which aren’t entirely cohesive, but which are certain to capture the imagination of fans of the series. The film is not perfect, but there is clear heart to it, and it is worth a watch, if only for its visual creativity.
Overall Score: 7.5/10