This is one of those years which is ending profoundly better than the way it began. After enduring half a dozen disappointing blockbusters (Civil War is an exception), we found a silver lining in Marvel’s Doctor Strange. Now, the most anticipated movie of the year, the first of the new ‘prequel’ franchise to the global phenomenon ‘Harry Potter,’ Fantastic Beasts has arrived. And Merlin’s Beard I have to say it is the best blockbuster of the year, surpassing Civil War in terms of delivering social commentary.
Alright, you must be surprised to read this. Social commentary in a children’s film? Well yes, the biggest takeaway from Fantastic Beasts is that it is more fantastic a political film than a kid-friendly film. The beloved writer J.K.Rowling has penned a terrific screenplay that is layered with dark themes albeit coated with great humour. We have a new hero who doesn’t come from a tormented past but is still thoroughly relatable. And when the actor essaying the role is Eddie Redmayne, you don’t have much to complain but rave his performance for skillfully portraying the character.
The film is a blend of two plots. One with our hero Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and his accidentally emancipated magical creatures. The other about a dark wizard named Grindlewald who is on prowl to find something powerful that can destroy the muggle world. Given that most films with diverse storylines jammed together end up being messy, Fantastic Beasts earns a point for being coherent throughout. And since I do not want to giveaway anything major, given I am a big potterhead, I’ll leave the briefing portion for you to discover.
Everything about this movie is fresh. Sure you get numerous Easter eggs (repeat viewing is a must for fans), but Hogwarts is left far behind. This is New York and it’s awesome. Instead of our favorite trio (Harry, Ron and Hermione), we now have Newt, Tina (Katherine Waterston) and Jacob (Dan Fogler). Although there is a fourth member in the gang, we don’t get to see much of her (Alison Sudol).
Like in every David Yates movie (The Legend of Tarzan being the most recent), the production is drop-dead gorgeous. Magnificent visual effects and the wonderful set-pieces, transport you back in time to the illustrious post-World War era. There are tons of magical action and thrilling moments. But the ones you carry home are the gloriously imagined creatures and their fantastic abilities. Kids are sure to enjoy watching the beasts and the pugs going haywire, teasing their master (lookout for Niffler).
The darker elements are equally scary for youngsters. It isn’t just the visuals but the psychological horror that amplifies the gloominess. One of the members of the cast delivers an outstanding performance, infusing soul into the film composer James Howard couldn’t. If there’s something to nitpick, it’s Howard’s generic soundtrack, which is nowhere close to John Williams’ masterful work. Also, the special cameo (of an actor caught up in controversies) is a delight to watch.
Overall, Fantastic Beasts will blow you away. It is not disappointing, nor will it hurt fans. It ties a few loose ends that were left in the Potter movies and is sure to leave you wildly excited for the films to come.
P.S. Watch it on the biggest screen possible.
By Mayank Nailwal