Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, 2016.
Directed by David Yates.
Starring Eddie Redmayne, Colin Farrell, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Carmen Ejogo, Ezra Miller, Ron Perlman, Jon Voight, Ronan Raftery, Faith Wood-Blagrove, Jenn Murray, Zoe Kravitz and Johnny Depp.
The adventures of writer Newt Scamander in New York’s secret community of witches and wizards seventy years before Harry Potter reads his book in school.
For me the idea of returning to the Harry Potter universe was met with a sense of trepidation. Would the universe expansion be as thrilling? Would the characters be as strong? Would it add to the franchise or take something away? Luckily Fantastic Beasts has not disappointed and is a welcome addition to the Potter franchise.
Newt Scamander (Redmayne) travels to New York with a suitcase packed full of wonderful creatures/beasts that unfortunately get let loose and cause chaos on the streets. Whilst all this is going on there are a series of strange attacks on Muggles (or no-majs as they’re known in America) that get blamed on him. Being chased by the American Ministry, Scamander and his team – ex auror Tina (Waterston) her sister Queenie (Sudol) and no-maj Kowalski (Fogler) – set about to save the day.
What works so well in Fantastic Beasts is that it expertly combines whimsy and slapstick comedy with some truly dark material. Child abuse and murder take place on-screen, humans die and there are lasting consequences that feel much darker than the original series. Whilst you don’t get the same childlike delight watching this film as you do watching Potter, there’s loads of new characters and creatures to take in and a whole new universe. Set in 1926, New York is shown as a place of wonderment, enthralled in the opulent jazz era. The introduction of the American wizarding community reveals a lot of prejudices (there’s a comment made by Scamander about wizards and humans not getting married), and there are a lot more restrictions than in the UK. This makes for a wholly darker and more sinister tone that became the staple of David Yates’ style for the final Harry Potter films he directed.
Redmayne is perfectly cast as Scamander. He never quite meets your eye line and he seems much more comfortable surrounded by his creatures than by fellow wizards. His friendship with Kowalski is touching and feels real. Dan Fogler as Kowalski is great in the fish out of water comedy. He is there as a comic relief function but he does a lot with a role that could have spilled over into annoyance. Colin Farrell as Ministry Man Graves is exceptional, as is Ezra Miller as Credence – an orphaned boy horribly mistreated by his foster Mother Mary Lou (Morton). The acting is a lot better than the Harry Potter films which did struggle with its leads abilities at times.
David Yates brought a more grown up tone to the Potter films he directed and his expert hand is clearly demonstrated in this film. The dark points of the film are handled expertly well and his steady hand with the action scenes is a welcome sight. There’s also a lot of humour throughout the film and Yates revels in the lighter moments. One great scene involves Scamander re-enacting a mating ritual in order to lure one of his beasts – a rhino looking creature – involves some terrific physical acting from both Redmayne and Fogler.
There are a few “twists” throughout that are quite obvious which is a shame but all in all Fantastic Beasts is a worthy addition to this franchise and I can’t wait to see what they do next.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★