Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the latest project from Harry Potter creator J.K Rowling is out this week in Irish cinemas and Potter alum David Yates is once again directing. Can he replicate the success he had with the Harry Potter films he worked on previously?
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is set in the roaring 20’s and follows the adventures of young wizard Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) as he travels the world learning more and more about the fantastic magical beasts that inhabit it. Think of him as the wizarding equivalent of David Attenborough. He has come to America on behalf of a friend, and unfortunately, he and his menagerie of magical beasts get sucked into a growing conflict between the No-Maj and wizarding community of New York. And to add insult to injury some of his magical charges are accidentally let loose upon New York meaning he has to find them and protect them from the machinations of both sides.
What makes Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them tremendous is its cast. Eddie Redmayne is charmingly introverted as Scamander, a man who can see beauty where others see fear. It’s a beautiful message that permeates throughout Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. And Redmayne’s performance sells this message of acceptance impressively.
Along for the ride is “No-Maj” Jacob (Dan Fogler), a human who gets swept up in Scamander’s search for his bestial family. Fogler play’s a charming everyman that the audience can rally behind and he is a fascinating character that easily could have been the mere comedy relief. Thanks to the top-notch writing, direction, and acting Jacob is a great addition to the Potterverse. This can be said for most of the characters in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, in particular, Ezra Miller’s character, the troubled youth Credence who wishes for acceptance in an unaccepting world. His character arc was a highlight and offered a fascinating addition to the lore of Potterverse. Now some of the characters do not live up to this level of nuance; unfortunately, Colin Farrell’s character Percival Graves’ real intentions are as transparent as an invisibility cloak.
There is a question that everyone will be asking going into this film, how are the fantastic beasts themselves? Honestly, they are riveting and enthralling characters brimming with their unique personalities. Not simply monsters but other beings that inhabit this magical world. Not one creature is like the other, and it makes every encounter our heroes have with them memorable.
If there are any negatives to take away from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them it is the fact that Warner Bros. Pictures are clumsily trying to turn this into a franchise. This is apparent in the conclusion of the final act and the setting up of a future villain down the line. It was unnecessary and could have been handled far better. These are, however, simple nitpicks from a diehard Potter fan.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a triumphant return to the world we were all introduced to back in 1997 when Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone first hit our bookstores. I wait with bated breath for the next installment of Newt Scamander’s adventures.