Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a spin-off of the Harry Potter film series. Fantastic Beasts is the first film written by J.K. Rowling, based on the roof (sorta) of the same name. The film is directed by David Yates and it stars Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Samantha Morton, Jon Voight, Carmen Ejogo and Colin Farrell. It’s about a case of magical (fantastical) creatures that are let loose in 1926 New York.
The good; it’s a period piece. Not only are there magical creatures, spells and wand wielders, but making it a period piece transports you to another world all the more.
The production staff (set builders, costumers… etc) did a great job transporting us to New York of old.
Redmayne does a fine job as Newt Scamander. His love and care for all the “fantastic” creatures is heart-felt, Redmayne sells it and makes us believe that these creatures are real and that they are near and dear to him. In understanding each creature magic is also brought into the plot. Magic is but a tool in which certain people use, it’s not the end all be all, meaning it doesn’t cause the problem in the story and it’s not the solution, it’s a tool in which the characters use. Magic done right.
Fantastic Beasts manages to weave in a love story amongst all the magic and other worldly creatures. Some might call this contrived and safe, but it manages to ground things. Dan Fogler as Jacob Kowalski gives us our tether, in that he’s the No-Maj (American for Muggle) for the audience to learn through by way of exposition. Fogler’s comedic beats are very welcomed among the menagerie of creatures and magic wielding.
The bad; there are a couple of things. There is already a series of eight films for this “prequel” to build on… why not continue using the word Muggle? New York with magic doesn’t seem like a place I want to visit, where as Hogwarts is a place I want to go to, so much so that I’ve been to the Orlando and Hollywood theme parks. The Magical Congress of the United States is not the Ministry of Magic, this could be Rowling’s view on the US in general and it’s persevering Puritanical background. But the Congress felt very ineffective and bureaucratic.
I won’t go into further detail for fear of spoiling the plot.
Without being too specific, there’s a scene in the very beginning of the film that if something else happened… could’ve prevented the whole problem, another reason that New York with Magic isn’t very fun.
Overall, Fantastic Beasts was enjoyable. Prequels aren’t my favorite, but this one managed to capture my attention. It’s only after that I thought of things to poke holes in, not bad for Rowling’s first screenplay though, it helped with David Yates being a veteran of the Harry Potter film series.
Redmayne’s Scamander reminded me a lot of Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor (distinctly colored coat, high cuff pants, boots, and just his mannerisms). This was a lot of fun and it was great being back in the Harry Potter world again, even though it’s sort of removed.