Sunday, 20 November 2016

Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them:: FILM REVIEW




The lights grow dim, then fade to black as the screen widens. A nervous hum of chatter still rumbles around Screen 1, bursting with anticipation, worry, and utter excitement. November brings the perfect opportunity to don house scarves - Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, and Slytherin, the four colours once scattered when the lights were still glowing are united. Some of us have our wands; a girl in the row behind me is removing her spectrespecs for the benefit of 3D glasses; a final Hedwig's theme ringtone goes off, and laughter echoes all over. Then it grows quiet. We've all talked through the adverts and trailers, but now, a hush has fallen. The film is about to begin. 

I've been waiting for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them since September 2013. Fourteen-year-old Holly was euphoric, having finally completed her first read of the Harry Potter series and understandably craving more. Pottermore was helping, but this film still seemed exceptionally far off. When you're only 14, 3 years is a long time. However,  Fantastic Beasts has meant a lot more than simply being another journey into the Wizarding World. There was a time when I was using it as an end goal of life. It was one of the only things that were keeping me alive; the string tying me to Earth when I was at a point of not wanting to be here anymore. I remember being 14 and telling myself  'I want to live long enough to see this film. If I can just make it to Fantastic Beasts...' And now I'm here, and I'm not her anymore; instead I'm 17 and for the most part, I'm very happy with life. I made it, and I've seen it, and it didn't disappoint. Whether I'd liked it or not, this film will always hold deep sentimental value, but I'm so glad it is everything I had hoped. 

I was very privileged to have the opportunity to go to the European Premiere of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them with Amber. That in itself was an extraordinary experience which will get its own blog post, so here I'm going to focus on the experience on the film alone, and the film when I've gone and seen it for a second time since. 

It's difficult to describe the beauty of this film. From the very first moment, we are immersed into flashes of newspapers, revealing how 1926 Wizarding New York is a very dark and uncertain  place. Where many of us try and picture this decade as a reflection of Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, the Wizarding World is not filled with flapper girls and jazz; instead, Grindelwald has gone missing, and MACUSA is on high alert. Fantastic Beasts is a film of eeriness, where a second wave of the Salem Witch Trials is being attempted, and the notion of witchcraft is horrifying. In spite of the gloom, however, this film is a beacon of light in a time of depression, both in the film and in our present day. 

Like anything and everything in the Wizarding World, this dawn of a new era astonished me. From the characters to the beasts to the plot, I fell deeply in love with Wizarding America, particularly with a certain quartet. Newt, Tina, Queenie and Jacob all brought something different to the table, and something that we hadn't seen in our Golden Trio. There are parallels that can be drawn between the trio and the quartet, but here, these 4 shone in their own light. I adored the level of complexity we received in each of these characters, and in so many others, even when this is the first of five films. Newt Scamander is clearly more than a creature-loving Hufflepuff, just to provide one example, and I cannot wait to find out more about him and the others. 

The casting was excellent. Johnny Depp as Grindelwald is questionable, but he had perhaps 30 seconds of screen time and therefore no real chance to show what he could bring to this evil wizard other than a line. Eddie Redmayne was perfect as Newt Scamander. Eddie is Newt. I'm so glad that this new franchise has taken the opportunity to showcase lesser-known talent, like that of Alison Sudol and Katherine Waterston to name a couple. Something that always struck me in the Harry Potter series was the near-flawless acting that was so utterly believable, and that seems to have bled through into this new series. Watching Fantastic Beasts, you can very easily forget that Percival Graves is really Colin Farrell acting or that Jacob is really Dan Fogler; it never felt like acting, but instead every scene felt natural. 

Soundtracks are so often overlooked when discussing a film, which is why I also want to take a moment to appreciate this one. When Pottermore released the main theme in early October, I was left massively conflicted. It felt like an awful amalgamation of too many styles being crammed into a 2-minute piece. Despite that, the piece worked a lot better when accompanied by motion picture as oppose to solo listening. This soundtrack is one of the best from the Wizarding World. It's not as good as Alexandre Desplat, but it's better than John Williams and Patrick Doyle [controversial opinion, but that's how I feel.] There were some occasions where I feel music was relied on too heavily, and the sound of the actual film would have been fine, but other than that, it was a stunning compilation of pieces that blended well into the atmosphere of the 1920's setting. 

The plot was fantastic [if you pardon the pun.] I DID NOT SEE THOSE PLOT TWISTS COMING. Like in the original series, there were so many points where I felt my jaw drop. Collective gasps and loud outbursts of laughter weren't uncommon in any of the screenings I've been to. I cried 3 times during the course of my first viewing. I don't cry at films. And THAT is the power of J.K Rowling: she can spin a web of entrancing magical fantasties that make you invested in every second, and then unravel it all with a single thread, leaving you thinking "how did I not see that coming?" Now, having seen the film, I can understand why this is going to take five installments to complete. So many questions have been left unanswered and it's hard to believe that for some of them we may have to wait up to ten years for those answers. Not that I mind. I don't think I'll ever mind; I'm just glad to be back in this world with a whole new story to unfold. When I discovered Harry Potter, I started at the end with all the answers. Now, I am starting at the beginning, and I am excited. I am excited for the waiting and the theorising and the fangirling. These next 8-10 years are going to be quite the journey. 

At a time when our world is changing for the worse, this film is the Lumos spell that was needed to be cast. For those of you who like me, live and breathe Potter, then this will feel like coming home. After all, it's like Luna Lovegood said, 'the things we love have a way of coming back to us in the end, if not always in the way we expect.' All I can say to you, a prospective or already avid viewer, is welcome home. 

1 comment:

  1. AHhh this post has gotten me so hyped to see Fantastic Beasts!! I need to go see it now! (Your writing is amazing btw)
    - Sarah ☽

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