Review! Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016) Directed by David Yates. Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Colin Farrell, Katherine Waterston, Samantha Morton, Dan Fogler, Ezra Miller. IMDB says “The adventures of writer Newt Scamander in New York’s secret community of witches and wizards seventy years before Harry Potter reads his book in school.”
This week 15 years ago, audiences got their first glimpse of the magical world created by J.K. Rowling and her Harry Potter book series as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone hit the big screens. At the time of the first film’s release, I was in my Junior year of high school. Thanks to a good friend of mine who made me sit down and watch the first film when it was later released on home video, I, like so many others, fell in love with the series. Over the next 10 years, Potter fans around the world were able to see their favorite books come to life. Since the completion of the final film fans have been anxiously hoping for some sort of a return to the magical world, and after years of waiting the day has finally arrived.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is based on a book Rowling wrote in 2001 for a charity event. This film marks Rowling’s screenwriting debut, and she has said that she will be writing all 4 sequel films in the series as well. The film follows Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) as he heads to New York City. The setting is 1926 and Newt is looking to acquire a new beast for his collection. Very quickly things start to go awry as we begin to delve into NYC during the roaring twenties. After a run in at the bank, Newt acquires a new sidekick, Kowalski (Dan Fogler), to help him on his adventure. We are also introduced to Tina (Katherine Waterston) who works for the American equivalent of the Ministry of Magic, the Magic Congress, and also gets tangled into the mess that begins to unfold.
The movie expands on the universe that Rowling crafted in the Harry Potter series, this time giving fans a look at a larger view into the world of magic and how things are done in other parts of the world, giving the movie a lot of its charm. From learning what American wizards and witches call “muggles”, to the name drop of the American equivalent to Hogwarts and even a mention of Albus Dumbledore, the movie brings you right back into a familiar yet different world than we have seen before.
The film is a spin-off series and isn’t technically a prequel, but takes place in the same world set forth in the Potter books and films. The movie successfully sets up this strange new world for the subsequent films that are to come and undoubtedly will be even more entertaining than this first installment.
Eddie Redmayne was a phenomenal choice to play Newt, and he adds the right dose of awkward shyness to the character. To balance out his awkwardness, the casting of Dan Fogler as his “sidekick” of sorts provides much of the films comic relief and Fogler will for sure have you laughing out loud several times. Fogler’s comedy for sure helps to balance out the film a bit as things get quite dark during the films second half. I also really enjoyed the performance from Ezra Miller who plays Credence Barebone, son of Mary Lou (Samantha Morton) who supports the hunting down of witches and wizards to bring about the new Salem of sorts. Miller’s character is very dark, tortured and downright creepy at times, which draws you in as you watch the film’s events unfold.
I’m not going to get into any specifics because nobody likes spoilers, but the film does pack a few twists and turns. Overall the film is a great setup film and just makes me more excited to see the films that will follow. It is probably my least favorite film in the Potter universe but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good by any means. I highly recommend seeing this film in theatres and hope everyone enjoys their return to the world of magic. Also fun fact before I say farewell, the film takes place in 1926…the year Voldemort is born. So maybe we will see a few familiar faces at some point if we are lucky since the series of films spans a 19 year period.
OVERALL SCORE: 82%
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is currently out in theaters nationwide.