Blu-ray Review: Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them

When the credits rolled on Harry Potter And The Deathly Hollows Part 2 in 2011, legions of Potter fans were sad because they new the world that J.K. Rowling had created was finally over. However it seems Rowling and Warner Bros. weren’t done with wizarding world and chose one of Harry’s texts books as the inspiration for the next wizarding series. Yes, series, there are 5 more films already planned with these new characters.

Our new lead is not the bright eyed young Harry Potter. Our setting is no longer Hogwarts. It is now New York in the 1920s and we are following around the awkward and squirrelly Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), author of Harry’s text book “Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them”. As the film opens Newt has not yet published his destined to be famous book. He arrives in New York with a magical suitcase filled with dozens of magical creatures. However, I guess his suitcase has seen better days, because the creatures keep finding ways to escape. And thus begins our character’s journey.

While trying to catch a platypus looking creature with an affinity for shiny things, Newt runs into No-Maj (shouldn’t it be No-Mag?) Jacob Kowalski (Don Fogler), an aspiring baker trying to get a loan to open a bakery. Instead Jacob gets sucked into Newt’s world and sees things he never could have imagined. Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), an ex-Auror, sees Newt breaking all sorts of wizard laws and decides to bring him in, presumably in hopes of getting her old job back.

Circumstance leads these three, along with Tina’s sister, Queenie (Alison Sudol), to team up and track down the creatures that have escaped Newt’s case. Meanwhile, Percival Graves (Colin Farrell) is attempting to track down an Obscurus that is running amok New York city. The Obscurus is the most interesting thing introduced in this film. Basically it is a dark force of magical energy that builds up in a wizard who is not allowed to use their magic. In a time of prohibition, the idea of repression is a heavy theme throughout the film.

As one might expect all these stories lead to climactic ending with some pleasant surprises. Who is the troubled child connected to the Obscurus? And where/who is Gellert Grindelwald, a dark wizard whose power rivals that of Voldemort? (Hint: It’s a pretty awesome cameo that gives hope for the future films.)

This is a fun movie, I enjoyed it quite a bit, but it is no Harry Potter film. I think the biggest problem with the film is Eddie Redmayne. He plays Newt and mumbling shy man that makes him very hard to understand. I missed a lot of his dialog when I saw it in the theater. Watching it now with subtitles was very helpful. Newt is not a charismatic leading character. He would be better served as a side character. Contrary, the most interesting character in this film is Jacob, the No-Maj. His reaction to the sudden introduction to this fantastic world is the heart and charm of this film, as well as his developing relationship with Queenie. The threat of him having to have his memory wiped is lingering threat the whole film that leads to the movie’s most emotionally moving scene at the end. Had the film been told from his point of view, reintroducing us to the wizarding world and this new time period, I think the film would have been a lot more effective.

While Fantastic Beasts might give Potter fans a nice little fix, the film isn’t as good as it could have been and a little bit of a shaky start for a new franchise. There is a lot of potential to build on here and I hope the creative team learns from their mistakes and makes a much better film for part 2 that is due out in 2018.

The film is presented in 2.4:1 and Dolby Atmos DTS-HD 5.1 Surround sound. This is a great looking film. It gets a little too bogged down in some of the CGI effects, but the creatures do look pretty great.

Extras include: Before Harry Potter: A New Era Begins!: (15 min.) A nice behind the scenes intro. Characters: (24 min.) Several shorts about the various main characters. Creatures: (21 min.) Several shorts about the various creatures. Design: (36 min.) Several shorts about the different locations. Deleted Scenes: (14 min.) Most of these are deleted for obvious reasons, but you do see the moment from the trailer where Jacob says “I wish I was a wizard.”

Despite Redmayne I do enjoy this film and think it is a fine addition to the Potter Universe. I hope the next film is leagues and bounds better, because if they stay at this level I’m not sure the series will make it to film 6. I will probably continue to watch this film with subtitles because Redmayne is just really hard to understand.

Warner Bros. presents Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them. Written by J.K. Rowling. Based on the book “Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them” by J.K. Rowling. Directed by David Yates. Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Dan Fogler, Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol, Colin Farrell, Ezra Miller, Samantha Morton, Ron Perlman, and Jon Voight. Running time: 133 min. Rating: PG-13. Released on Blu-Ray: March 28, 2017.

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