The Newsroom’s Jameel Khan reviews Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the first film to further explore J.K. Rowling’s magical Wizarding World.
So far 2016 can be considered a disappointing year for Warner Bros. as the release of both Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad were heavily panned by critics and audience members alike. The release of these films was Warner Bros’ attempt to rival the already well-established and critically acclaimed Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), owned by Marvel Studios, a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company. Disney also owns the rights to Star Wars and Disney Pixar, making them the leading movie studio in regards to financial revenue and critical acclaim. The release of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, an extension on the already established and successful Wizarding World penned by J.K. Rowling, was the studio’s last glimmer of hope in producing one of the year’s major blockbusters.
At first, I was somewhat hesitant at the announcement of the film, fearing that it was nothing more than a cash-grab riding on the success of the Harry Potter franchise. However, upon viewing the film, it became clear that it could stand alone. In many ways, it is a strong contender for the best movie set in J.K. Rowling’s fictional world, a world that was extremely important to me and many others while growing up.
As the film is set in New York City in 1926, the term “prequel” has been thrown around to describe it. However, this was not a standard prequel. The film only touched lightly on events that were explored in the original Harry Potter series. References to Rowling’s previous works did not feel out of place or contrived, but rather added an extra dimension to the original story that was taking place on screen. The mentioning of key parts of the Harry Potter mythology, including the use of familiar spells, an appearance from dark wizard Grindelwald and famed Hogwarts’ headmaster Albus Dumbledore, aided in enhancing the story and helping to establish a wider fictional universe.
The film has amazing visual effects that reinforce the idea that there are no limits to the imagination of J.K. Rowling. The use of magic is a true testament to how much visual effects have improved in the five years since the release of the last Harry Potter film, Deathly Hallows Part Two. The “beasts” that the title of the film alludes to are not only visually stunning but are oozing with originality and charm that will please audience members young and old. I could go on and on about the wonders of Rowling’s creativity, however, the film sums it up completely when the character Jacob Kowalski explains in disbelief “I don’t think I’m dreaming … I ain’t got the brains to make this up.”
The casting choices fit the tone of the film perfectly with Eddie Redmayne demonstrating his ability to carry a film as a charming lead. The inclusion of actors Colin Farrell and Ezra Miller as Graves and Credence Barebone respectively contributed to an eerie and darker tone, while Dan Fogler added a much-needed light comic relief that balanced the film’s tone effectively in the form of “no-maj” (muggle) Jacob Kowalski.
The film effectively introduced another part of J.K. Rowling’s fictional world, one that I am excited to see expanded further. It is a must-see for any fans of fantasy and of Rowling’s previous work. Despite Warner Bros’ failure to capture audiences with previous 2016 blockbusters, this film is not out of place among some of the best of the year. – Jameel Khan
Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc