A lot has changed since the first Harry Potter film was released in 2001. Heck, a lot has changed since the LAST Harry Potter film was released in 2011. The franchise helped change our modern interpretation of what a film series can be. And this prequel spin-off is proof of that. While this isn’t a Harry Potter movie, it’s part of the same world.
In the 15 years since Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, blockbuster films have become consistently good. Critically acclaimed. It’s not just popcorn entertainment anymore–we have higher expectations. And as the blockbusters strive for the quality of the more highbrow indie offerings being nominated for Oscars, they begin resembling them in a way.
The Harry Potter films, especially the first few, had a sort of snappy storytelling to them. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them does not. It’s much slower like the later films in the previous series. Yet, the difference is, this is the setup to the next four films. By the time we got to the last few Harry Potter movies, we weren’t exactly looking for a brisk narrative. And I was hoping for this in Fantastic Beasts–albeit, probably unrealistically.
Set in 1926, an English wizard, Newt (Eddie Redmayne), comes to America for McGuffin-like reasons (and unclear, at that). He gets into some trouble as some of the fantastic beasts escape from the suitcase where he’s keeping them. As this is happening, he gets mixed in with a normal non-magical human, Jacob (Dan Fogler).
Other assorted things happen that are appealing to the audience. We get to go inside this magical suitcase and see dozens of unique creatures in this new expanded universe. It’s really cool and aesthetically pleasing.
The movie is long and not enough happens to truly justify it. Instead of using the time to thoroughly explain some of the overarching story lines, the filmmakers spend it drawing things out. Perhaps because they feel like they have to.
Don’t get me wrong, the film is great. It’s thoroughly enjoyable. It does most of the things a good film should do. While the storytelling isn’t quick, it’s still very even.
This is what director David Yates is good at, as evident in the last four Harry Potter films he directed. Though Fantastic Beasts is missing the magical world that is Hogwarts, Yates knows how to bring alive New York City in the ’20s and make it feel magical.
You will most likely enjoy Fantastic Beasts. If for no other reason than the fact that it’s the ingress back into the beloved world of Harry Potter.And Easter eggs are scattered all around. Just don’t go into it with the same expectations as its predecessors.