November 20, 2016

"Fantastic Beasts" Spoiler-Free Review

Last night I saw Fantastic Beasts, the new entry into the Wizarding World by J.R. Rowling. This isn't quite a Harry Potter prequel. is and it isn't. It isn't because it has nothing to do with Harry himself whatsoever. It takes place in 1926, and the Harry Potter films begin in 2001. I know the Potter books take place in the '90s, but how else can you explain the flat screen owned by the Dursleys in Prisoner of Azkaban, or that bridge that collapses in the beginning of Half-Blood Prince? Anyway, so it takes place decades before Harry's born.

Because of that, the film slightly distances itself from Harry and Hogwarts, both by the time period, and the fact that it takes place in New York. This film doesn't 'set up' the main Harry Potter series, though there are some similarities. We are, after all, dealing with the same universe and mythos, so some connections will be there. This is a spoiler-free review, so that's all I'll say for now.

An exciting aspect, is that this is new territory. We don't have existing books or a book series to follow. For example, the novel Half-Blood Prince was published in 2005, and the film Order of the Phoenix came out in 2007, so previous knowledge outside of the films had existed. With Fantastic Beasts, everything is brand new, or has cropped up recently: Ilvermorny (I'm a Wampus!), No-Maj, MACUSA....lots of new entries here.

Now that I've sort of covered the similarities and differences, how is the movie??

Quite good. Actually, it's very good. It is definitely one of the best films of the year, and possibly the best prequel / spinoff I've seen yet. A hell of a lot better than Star Wars Episode I, and better than The Hobbit: Part 1, this is definitely a (sort of) "prequel" done right. It doesn't suffer from 'prequel-itis' [oh, there's no danger because we know these guys make it into the actual 'series']. What I meant by what I just said was, how it works in relation to the "main" series. 

It has its own feel and vibe, and is equally the same and different as Harry Potter all at once. The magic, wonder and amazement are all there. This film draws from Harry Potter's rich and extensive mythology, and this film dazzles with its own unique franchise-building magic.

The visual effects are top-notch, as is the sound and score (I'm listening to the soundtrack right now, actually). The casting is great. Move Emma Watson, my next female celeb crush is Queenie...whoa. Anyway! Everything about this film works just right. I'm hopeful that the next four films maintain this level of quality and that this film being great wasn't just a fluke.

As some of you may recall, I was initially against seeing this film. I admit it. But sometimes, with movies, a certain poster, picture, or trailer can change our minds. I happened to see the right trailer, the one called "final trailer." [the one and only trailer I watched.] and that one convinced me to get interested enough to go see this film at the cinema.

I'm not sure how well this movie would work for anyone that's never seen a Harry Potter movie before. I've seen all the Harry Potters, so nothing went over my head or confused me. Having prior knowledge of the world definitely does help, but I wouldn't say it's "mandatory", but it does enhance one's enjoyment of this film. And if you didn't like the Harry Potter movies, there's a strong chance you may not like this one either.

I'm definitely on board with the other four films in this series. I look forward to seeing Newt's adventures in Paris, in November 2018. Since there will be 5 of these films, I will wait until the box set comes out to buy any of them. If the box set is too pricey, or seems....tacky, then I'll just get them individually all at once once the final film arrives on blu-ray.

8.5 / 10 Recommended to anyone that enjoyed the Harry Potter films and is seeking new magical and wondrous adventures.

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