A Harry Potter film with no Harry Potter, Hermione, or Ron might sound a bit odd, but Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them looks and feel like the franchise while introducing fun new characters and creatures. Based on a book students of Hogwarts read, J.K. Rowling author’s a prequel like none other taking place around seventy years before Mr. Potter and his crew meet up at platform nine and three quarters to master the world of wizardry.
Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmanye) is an awkward yet brilliant magic zoologist who keeps his beloved animals and critters in his comfortably disorganized suitcase. Ok, the bag looks small but it is a comfy home to plenty of large and surprising living things. While on a journey to find more mysterious magical creatures, he arrives in New York City circa 1926, during a time of a war between magicians and non-magicians (aka “Nomaj”). After a strange run-in with Jacob Kowalski (a hilarious Dan Fogler), a nomaj with a similar suitcase, Newt discovers that some of his beloved creatures escape into the city, some going straight to popular tourist destinations. Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) who used to work for The Magical Congress of the US, works together with Newt to catch the creatures, resolve the conflict between the magic and nomaj communities, all the while being threatened by a large darker force.
This is JK Rowling’s first screenplay. Undoubtedly one of the most creative geniuses of all time, Rowling brings out the cute and crazy creations she invented, while also tying new themes. It’s hard not to compare the world of Beasts with the one of today, a nation divided between two sides (sound familiar?). Never one to shy away from politics, Rowling makes allegories that teach valuable lessons without being preachy. She also creates a lively adventurous world with witty dialogue, lovably peculiar characters and bizarre creatures. David Yates directs, making a smooth transition from the Potter films (he directed the last four of them). The look and tone feel similar and the effects are fantastic. Beasts offers a lot of fun with its slapstick comedy and chasing down creatures in the city moments, but similar to the final Harry Potter film, it also has its serious moments as well.
Very different to the Harry Potter films, the majority of Beasts’ cast is adult living in adult New York. There are no children learning new tricks and no teens discovering love, magic, and Quidditch. As Newt, Eddie Redmayne turns in an eccentric and charismatic performance. Is there anything Redmayne can’t do? He can belt out Broadway show tunes in Les Mis, portray ALS fighter Stephen Hawking, and act in subtle period dramas like The Danish Girl. As Newt, Redmayne is awkwardly shy and adorable, fidgeting around the streets of Manhattan, rarely ever looking at anyone in the eye and just obsessed the world of fantastic beasts living in his bag. The rest of the large and talented cast includes Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Colin Farrell, Ezra Miller, Samantha Morton, and Johnny Depp.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the perfect Thanksgiving holiday movie with entertaining special effects, a fantastic story that children will eat up and adults will find smart. Rowling does introduce many new characters and a brand new world for Harry Potter fans, so get used to them because there will be four other films to come, all directed by Yates and penned by Rowling. Something tells me Rowling has plenty of other unpredictable magic tricks up her sleeve, and this is only the first chapter of a new, exciting epic of cinematic imagination.
Here is the trailer: