‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ review


It has been almost twenty years since the first Harry Potter book was written and fifteen years since the first Harry Potter film premiered and spawned into a worldwide phenomenon. It came to no surprise that a “Hogwarts textbook” about magical creatures was able to expand into a series of five films. The first of the films, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, marks the introduction of J.K. Rowling as a screenwriter. Although Rowling had always had control of how her characters were adapted, this role provided the opportunity to address her massive (and aging) fanbase and provide a more serious tone to the films.

Set in the 1920s, the film centers around British magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) entering New York with a briefcase full of magical beasts. During his visit in the Big Apple, after one of his creatures accidentally escapes, Scamander foolishly goes after it using magic in the open and in front of a Muggle (No-Maj to Americans) Jacob Kowalski (Dan Folger). This attracts the attention of Magical Congress auror Tina (Katherine Waterson), who attempts to arrest him. Chaos ensues when suitcases are accidentally switched, resulting in the release of even more magical beasts.

Of course, this isn’t the world we know with toilets taking us to the Ministry of Magic. No, this is America. The leading counsel here is the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA) where they have strict rules regarding the keeping of magical beasts, use of magic in front of No-Majs, and interrelationships with No-Majs. Basically, these people mean business, but I don’t blame them. There is also a No-Maj group called the Second Salemers, led by fanatic Mary Lou Barebone (Samantha Morton) and her adopted (and abused) son Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller), who intend on exposing and eliminating the witches.

The film, at times, felt like it was trying to cram a lot of storyline into the two-hour frame. It felt like some things were mentioned just to set up for the next film without serving a purpose in this one. The ‘budding’ relationship between Newt and Tina seemed a bit too forced, with the film trying too hard to develop some chemistry to click between the two with subtle and, at times, uncomfortable glances. But the real relationship that seems to shine onscreen is between Jacob and Tina’s legilimens (mind-reader) sister Queenie (Alison Sudol). Sweet and completely sincere, Queenie’s character seems to be the most charming of the four with the two practically stealing the scenes they are in.

Director David Yates, who filmed the final four Harry Potter films, has a clear understanding of Rowling’s vision for this world. The film’s set and costume design beautifully capture the lifestyle of the roaring twenties. From the goblin-owned speakeasy to the gorgeous gowns, the film truly transports you back into that era.With my RealD experience, you truly felt immersed in this world. The special effects are also stunning with the destruction and reconstruction of New York as well as the magic displayed onscreen.

What makes Fantastic Beasts a delight for fans of the Wizarding World are the creatures. Although some were heavily CG, the creatures come alive from the pages of the actual tome by Scamander, and we experience them fully in each scene. Audiences are sure to love the interactions between Scamander and his beasts, which contains some physical comedy on Redmayne’s part. Newt is an awkward and adorable wizard, who claims to be “annoying” to people, which could explain his closeness to the magical beasts because he feels misunderstood like they are. His love and compassion for these creatures are what make the story feel real, and we get to watch his expeditions from his textbook in the making.

Although the film has some faults, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is still enchanting and provides a new and magical story for Potter fans to enjoy. With four more films to fully expand the storylines and to flesh out our characters, Fantastic Beasts serves as a great first start and introduction into their world and Newt Scamander’s story.

Rating: 4/5 atoms

NR 4 Atoms - B

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Laura Sirikul
Laura Sirikul 1849 posts

Trekkie. Jedi. Whovian. Sherlockian. Hobbit. Sanrio. Comics. I am Spartacus. Warrior Princess. Superhero. Nerd. Follow me @lsirikul