December 6, 2016 Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Movie Review)
Five years after the end of the successful Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling revisits the wizard world with a new project, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Fans are brought back into this wonderful Fantasy with new adventures, dangers, and of course, magic. It was directed by David Yates (the Harry Potter franchise from ’07-’11) and co-produced by David Heyman (I Am Legend 2007). Rowling wrote the book back in 2001, with most of the profits benefiting the charity Comic Relief. Originally meant to be a trilogy, Rowling has confirmed this will be a five part series, so fans can expect a lot more from the world that has won the hearts of so many, a delightful treat for “Pott Heads.”
British Wizard Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne: Les Misérables 2012, Jupiter Ascending 2015) migrates to the US on a mission to set free magical “beasts,” claiming they are misunderstood creatures. Stopping in New York City, he crosses over in the middle of a rally led by the president of the New Salem Philanthropic Society, Mary Lou Barebone (Samantha Morton: Minority Report 2002, John Carter 2012); a Muggle woman or “No-Maj,” a non-magical person in America, which claims that Witches and Wizards are real and dangerous. While he listens, one of the creatures escapes and causes unwanted attention, sparking a troublesome time for Newt, who is immediately thought to have another dangerous creature known as an Obscurus in his possession who is causing destruction around the city.
He is investigated by Percival Graves (Colin Farrell: Minority Report 2002, Saving Mr. Banks 2013); a high-ranking Auror and Director of Magical Security for MACUSA (Magical Congress of the United States of America). However, is he as caring as he seems as he lets the heat fall on Newt? Can Newt find the real culprit for the Obscurus before he is tried and executed for a crime he did not commit? With the help of Tina (Katherine Waterston), Queenie (Alison Sudol), and “No-Maj” Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), they take on all the dangers that threaten the city as well as the beasts that Newt is desperately trying to save.
Set 70 years before Harry Potter is born, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a wonderful expansion of the wizarding world. It sets the precedent for a whole new adventure, still linking to the dangers ahead which is set by the feared Voldemort and his dark forces. Throughout the movie, fans can notice subtle hints that link to the already beloved series, while indulging in a whole new storyline. Redmayne’s Newt is fun to watch, as he was Rowling’s only choice for the role. She has admitted to giving Redmayne a very detailed backstory to his character, details only the two of them currently possess. Ferrell’s Graves played an interesting character, taking his job seriously, but also having mysterious needs of his own.
There are constant hints throughout the film regarding the history of this character, and a huge twist is revealed at the end, raising questions on the films for the franchise to come. Katherine Waterston’s (Michael Clayton 2007, Steve Jobs 2015) Porpentina “Tina” Goldstein, a former MACUSA member, is Newt’s sweet love interest and the movie’s tragedy element, inducing perfection while Dan Fogler’s (Kung Fu Panda 2008) Jacob Kowalski; an American muggle with dreams to be a baker, serves as the lesson in tolerance.
The fantastic beasts are all CG’s, and while they look real, sometimes their movements lagged like all the glitches were not out of all the sequences. Aside from this nitpicky note, honestly, it was fascinating to see these beasts realized. Shot at Leavesden Studios, Leavesden, Hertfordshire, England, the green screen work that was done was seamlessly edited in the scenes shot on location in London, specifically Liverpool, that was beautifully transformed into 1920s New York City, complete with a Norman Rockwell vibe.
James Newton Howard’s (The Devil’s Advocate 1997, The Hunger Games series) score was a delightful difference with the film, with just enough of John Williams’ (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone 2001, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban 2004), specifically, “Prologue” and “Hedwig’s Theme.” Within the notes, there is wonderment and darkness that are at times overlapping and interweaving.
Clocking in at a little over two hours, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them has all the hallmarks of a Potter-verse film with new and interesting characters and beasts. With the team of Rowling and Yates, there is plenty to explore of this whimsical and dark world, as this is the beginning of a planned five-film franchise. The first two sequels are greenlit for release November 16, 2018, followed by the third on November 20, 2020. CrypticRock gives Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 4.5 out of 5 stars.