Fantastic Beasts suffers from its desire to be more serious and dramatic than it is, but it is still a joy to simply be immersed in the magical world once again.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the latest offering from the Harry Potter franchise, follows Newt Scamander as he attempts to find the mystical creatures he has accidentally let loose in New York City. The film is set in the 1920s and as a result of attacks by Grindlewald, the city is increasingly suspicious of witchcraft, a prominent subplot in the film.
The film is very aesthetically pleasing. It recently won an Oscar for best costumes, and the 1920s setting enables the make-up and costumes to be truly beautiful. Furthermore the special effects, in both the magical scenes and in the creation of the creatures are done very well, creating a fantasy which is compelling and believable. This, combined with the touching and humorous performances, creates an escapist experience perfect both for family viewing and for the festive season in which it initially came out.
There are two main plots in the film, one which focuses on Newt’s recapture of the creatures and the other on the behaviour of a mysterious orphan, the significance of which unfolds gradually throughout the film. Both plots are effective in their own right, the first charming and funny, the second creepy and tension building, but the inconsistency between the two holds the film back. The plots seem very different in both tone and colour and the film never manages to interweave them in a convincing manner.
Crucially, the ending fails to live up to either the charm of the main plot nor the creepiness of the sub-plot. Instead, it has an over-long action scene which fails to be as compelling as the first half of the film. A plot twist aiming to create larger stakes instead works to undermine a powerful and convincingly sinister villain construction. The finale of the film is disappointing because it undermines the true beauty and joy of the rest of the movie by attempting to make it more serious and dark than was really required.
Overall, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them may have flaws, especially in the latter half, but the overall experience is beautifully created and wonderfully enjoyable. Partly the simple experience of returning to this particular fantasy experience, but also the charm with which the film is carried out, makes the movie a worthwhile see.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016), directed by David Yates, is released in the UK on DVD and Blu-ray by Warner Bros. Pictures. Certificate 12A.