Rating: 6 ¾ wands

When I heard that Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was being adapted to film, I had a lot of feelings about it. Released in 2001 to benefit the charity Comic Relief , you weren’t a Potterhead without your own copy. (Unfortunately, the original “textbook” is no longer in print in South Africa, so you will have to settle for the screenplay instead). Having watched the film adaptation, I still have a lot of feelings about Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Here are the fantastic (and beastly) things about Fantastic Beasts (don’t worry – its spoiler free).

The Fantastic:

1. Amazing in 3D (and probably in 4D too)

I’m not usually a fan of 3D – the reality never lives up to the hype or the inflated ticket price. But Fantastic Beasts sets a new standard. You can tell that Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was filmed with 3D and 4D in mind. I am definitely going to splurge to watch it in 4D .

2. Muggle Representation

We’ve all wondered what it would be like to receive that Hogwarts letter. This film explores something far more realistic – what it would be like if we actually met wizards and witches. Jacob Kowalski is the bumbling “no-maj” caught up in Newt Scamander’s fantastic adventure and the highlight of Fantastic Beasts. I love him because he is me – just a muggle being absolutely astonished by the wizardry world and wishing I could be part of it.


3. Magical Set design

If there is one thing you can’t take away from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the incredible look and feel of the film – think Baz Luhrmann’s Great Gatsby for children. It’s beautiful!

4. Fantastic Beasts

The creatures featured in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them are the best part of the film. They’re adorable and bring some much needed comic relief to an otherwise emotionally flat narrative.

5. Nostalgia

J.K. Rowling understands fully the power of nostalgia in bringing the 1920’s wizarding world to life. Throughout Fantastic Beasts, hints of the Harry Potter’s world are alluded to, from a passing mention of Albus Dumbledore to the inclusion of the original franchise’s symbology. The film opens with snippets The New York Ghost that hints of familiar characters. This, coupled with the same music used in Harry Potter, will be sure to tug on the heart strings of anyone who grew up with the franchise.

The Beastly:

1. Lack of representation

It feels as though the filmmakers decided that if they made the President of the Magical Congress of the United States of America a black female, they could continue with their white male dominated film. Although the two female leads are sisters, they hardly share dialogue. For a franchise that represents diversity and tolerance, it is extremely disappointing to watch a film that does not represent the world as we know it.

2. It doesn’t feel real

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is not nearly as immersive as a good fantasy film should be. Despite the incredible special effects and the legacy the film is built on, it feels like watching a Primary School play – everyone is trying their best but you just can’t forget that you’re sitting in a school hall.

3. Meh characters

The script of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them focuses so much on plot and laying the groundwork for future films that it forgets that the heart to any good film is the characters. The characters of the film fall flat despite the actor’s best efforts. With the exception of Jacob Kowalski and the host of magical creatures, I could not care less if the characters of the film live or die. I do hope that on her next outing, Rowling will focus on the detailed characterisation she is famous for.

4. J.K Rowling flying solo

Every problem with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them comes down to J.K. Rowling’s script. Rowling is one of the best writers of novels ever. Perhaps it is her success that led her to the decision to write the Fantastic Beasts screenplay on her own. This is Rowling’s debut screenplay, and it shows. From poorly written characters to the languid pace of the film, it is clear that Rowling made a mistake in choosing to write this film alone. I can only hope she either improves or brings aboard Steve Kloves , the screenwriter for the Harry Potter franchise, for the sequels.

5. I can’t tell you what else because of spoilers

But let’s just say it happens in the last few minutes of the film

Final Verdict:

Warner Brothers and director David Yates do a fantastic job of creating a wondrous cinematic experience – if you can look past J.K Rowling’s average first outing as a screenwriter.

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