I dressed up in my Harry Potter tshirt, necklace, and socks last night like a true nerd to arrive at a nearly empty theater. I was stunned. Did other people know something I didn’t? Was I clinging onto some nostalgia for a bygone age by seeing a lukewarm prequel?
I was not disappointed. From the get-go, the look and feel of the film was incredibly compelling. Soundtrack and costumes launched me into a very well-imagined and fascinating world. An air of mystery which held some dramatic irony for Harry Potter fans lead fairly quickly into a scene in a bank which, without giving too much away, had me in stitches.
Characters were good, particularly “no-mag” Jacob, but I think the most compelling relationships were between Eddie Redmayne’s Newt Scamander and his creatures. Scamander has an awkwardness about him coupled with a very palpable tenderness and adoration for his creatures, who all have personalities of their own.
I have to comment on the plotting and pacing; had I not been so invested in picking up all the little Harry Potter Easter eggs sprinkled all over the film, it definitely would have dragged. My husband described it as “one long filler episode.” Some scenes and characters felt irrelevant. There was also no strong antagonist (yet) to act as a true foil for Scamander. When I think of the way Delores Umbridge brought out the best and worst qualities of Harry in Order of the Phoenix, well, let’s just say we haven’t gotten there yet, and consequently the film had a decided lack of tension. I am going to assume the film works better to set the stage for the rest of the series than as a standalone.
All in all, I give it four stars. Don’t expect a whirlwind plot, but you can be confident in all the enchantment you can expect from Rowling, all the pizzazz of 1920s New York, and all the cuteness of your favorite Internet cat videos. And yet, the film was good in its own right, and stood on its own two legs, or, should I say, four legs.