Are you looking forward to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them? Rest assured this is a fabulous addition to the wizarding universe of Harry Potter. One that gets by without ever having to mention Harry Potter.
When the Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them was first announced the biggest fear audiences and critics had was that this could end up being a money hungry Harry Potter spin-off. Thankfully that’s not the case.
The movie opens in 1920’s pre-depression New York where we first meet our protagonist Newt Scamander. An seemingly unassuming character as he passes through Eilis Island.
It is in these opening scenes that Scamander’s skittish demeanor is expertly portrayed by Eddie Redmayne. We also get our first real piece of magic involving in this opening scene. One involving Newt, a customs officer, and the ominous popping open of one of the clasps on his “Muggle safe” briefcase.
Scamander eventually clears customs allowing him to enter New York. It is here where we witness public lobbying by a group called the “Second Salemers”. A fanatical American“No-maj” (read muggle) group looking to expose and eliminate magic users. Their presence, coupled with that of Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), an unassuming “No-maj”on his way into the bank, and a witch by the name of Porpetina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), are our introduction to this new magical world.
Adventure, drama, intrigue, and mysterious prophecies drive the rest of the movie from here. There is also rumblings of the mechanisms of an unseen dark wizard more powerful than Voldemort.
What about the aforementioned Fantastic Beasts (my personal favorite part of the movie)? All I’ll say is, non spoiler, you do get to see them and they are in fact fantastic. Between their mystifying appearances and the expert special effects that truly brings them to life before your eyes, you shouldn’t need convincing to see this movie is IMAX.
David Yates, director of Harry Potter’s five through eight, has worked his expertise once again. J.K Rowling’s presence, screenwriter here and original Harry Potter creator, gives the movie a refreshing sense of “new but the same” from start to finish.
The screenplay is expertly executed with some delightfully witty quips scattered amongst of the hardship of the main story. With reference to one or two familiar names, Dumbledore, from the Potter-verse giving us a sense of home without making it feel like a crutch.
We now know that there will be five movies in the Fantastic Beast series so it will be interesting to see where the story goes from here. Something the presence of Rowling should make easier to flesh out.
A big factor to separating the story across multiple movies is obviously the wider story (there is a great wizarding war on the horizon). But for many fans will surely be swayed by the beasts themselves. Many of whom, to the best of my knowledge, haven’t made an appearance in the Potter universe up to this point thus giving them a sense of “new and exciting”.
How good can great writing really be without an equally great cast? That’s one thing that I feel does an excellent job of boosting this movie. Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler and Collin Farrell all pull together seamlessly. Giving a tantalising fluidity to the story without cheapening the writing.
Anyone familiar with Redmayne from any of his talk show appearances will know that he is a powder keg of frenetic energy beneath his calm demeanor. And his ability to change tack with a moments notice is on display through the course of the movie.
One negative that some people may see is the short cameo-like appearance of Johnny Depp. It amounts to no more that a set up for future franchise entries so don’t expect too much from it.
All said and done, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a solid movie. An introduction to the expanded Potterverse that should be to most people’s taste thanks to great casting and fabulous writing.