Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Director: David Yates
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterson, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Carmen Ejogo, Ezra Miller, Samantha Morton, Jon Voight, and Colin Farrell
It’s only been five years since the last Harry Potter film was in theaters. Talk to any Potter fan and it might as well be a lifetime. An amusement park in California and Orlando has been keeping the magic alive, allowing fans to visit their favorite school of witchcraft and wizardry and relive all the highlights from the books and films. Author J.K. Rowling, perhaps seeing the massive potential to continue her written stories on film, makes her screenwriting debut in director David Yates’ film “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”.
With an entire universe already established, one that had the luxury of having the same lead character in all eight films, how does one reestablish the world that has become so recognizable and beloved? First, you hire the director who worked on half of the films that established the universe. Second, you get a stellar cast lead by an Academy Award winning actor. Third, and most important, you get the author of the books to write the film. It doesn’t take long to see the positive influence these three factors have on the film; “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” reignites some of the magic of the Harry Potter films.
It’s 1926 and Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) has just arrived in New York City for a quick stopover after completing an adventure across the globe to find and document magical creatures. Newt is in possession of a magical case that houses some of the fantastic beasts that he has encountered during his journey. Before Newt can get comfortable in America, a non-magic human named Jacob (Dan Fogler) takes the magical case by accident that allows for some of Newt’s creatures to escape. With tensions heavy between the wizarding world and the non-magic world, Newt’s mishap could spell terrible consequences.
From the beginning notes of the recognizable score David Yates' film begins to orchestrate the merging of worlds, transitioning the design and style of the Harry Potter films and blending them into a new story in a new location. After a bumpy beginning, with the bumbling Newt accidently switching briefcases with the "No-maj" New Yorker Jacob, the film very quickly begins to find some narrative footing. Introducing all the characters that seemingly will have some kind of influence on the future franchise films, there are already 4 more films planned for development. This proves a little frustrating because many of these characters are given small introductions and some are never really utilized again in the film. Jon Voight makes an appearance as a newspaper owner helping one of his sons run for political office and Samantha Morton shows up as the stone-faced leader of a witch hunting group. Neither are given the time to really develop any kind of connection with the narrative that is playing out.
However, the characters that are given time to develop are very good, especially the group that forms to defeat the evil entity destroying New York. Eddie Redmayne and Dan Fogler are fun to watch together; add in the dynamic of two magical sisters played by Katherine Waterson and Alison Sudol and the whole group have a great chemistry. These characters are highlighted by Colin Ferrell, playing an Auror (highly skilled magical detective) named Graves with equal amounts of swagger and creepiness. It's a great role for Mr. Ferrell.
"Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" develops a good amount of fun moments, many times tapping into the charm and humor that made the Harry Potter films so memorable. While the film functions as the foundation for an entire new franchise, an aspect you can feel many times throughout, it still crafts some interesting moments and provides fans of this wizarding world with enough mystery to have them clamoring for the next film.
3.75 out of 5.00