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.
In 1926 New York the visiting Magizoologist Newt Scamander must recapture his lost Beasts before they cause irreparable damage.
Since Warner Bros. announced they were working with J.K. Rowling in a Harry Potter prequel trilogy there has been much comparison with the Star Wars series with Rowling seen as a new George Lucas. A creator who could not leave her creation and the world around it alone, doomed to create a sub-par prequel series that would tarnish the memories of the original. The similarities and the path ahead looked clear and fortunately Rowling and director David Yates have steered well clear of it to craft something that is fun, exciting and stands apart from the Harry Potter series.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them follows Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) around 1926 New York as he attempts to recapture creatures he lets loose from his magically enlarged suitcase. He must manage this whilst in a place with far more draconian wizard laws than that which we have seen before, whilst a dark power is slowly growing in New York and threatening to derail the secrecy of the American magical community.
This film wonderfully combines some of the greatest elements from the Harry Potter films that have come before it, without ever feeling burdened by them. It succeeds in keeping a lightness and sense of wonder that we got especially in the early Potter films whilst juggling the darker sub-plot (resembling the latter films in the series) in a way that flows feels organic. The combination of tension and humour, wonder and fear, complement each other which is a testament to Rowling’s screenplay and her trust in Yates to deliver it.
The performances are equally good, Eddie Redmayne is affable and charming as Scamander, which we expect from him. He manages to also play the part of unlikely hero convincingly, which was always my reservation going in. Colin Farrell as Graves is nefarious and his relationship with Ezra Miller’s Credence is fascinatingly sinister. Dan Fogler as the “No-Maj” Jacob Kowalski gets the funniest moments which could have been quite ludicrous with another actor in the part. Whilst Katherine Waterston and Alison Sudol are good in their parts as sisters Porpentina and Queenie Goldstein I did feel they could have been given some more to do.
The film truly succeeds in the visuals though. The team have perfected what they worked on from the original Potter series and taken it up a notch with the variety of Newt’s Beasts from large to small taken care of with great precision and detail. Seeing what groups of adult wizards can do to a whole city like New York is also a far cry from the early Potter films and feels more like Yates’ work on the latter Potter films but once more taken to a larger scale than we’ve seen before whilst still managing to work in the 1920’s New York feel, a scene in a Wizard’s Speakeasy being particularly triumphant in achieving this blend.
Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them is a wonderful addition to the original Potter series and a new start all in one. It manages to connect itself to the universe that Potter fans love with allusions to what we know rather than outright stating that it is connected. Whilst setting itself up for the future instalments it manages to be a great stand-alone movie with a well-crafted screenplay, stunning visuals and mesmerising performances that will please both the most avid Potter fan and the general movie-goer to boot.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Matt Spencer-Skeen – Follow me on Twitter