When Warner Bros released the spectacular Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 in 2011, many believed this to be the conclusion of the wizarding world of J.K. Rowling, but here we are just five years later and we’re heading back into the Harry Potter universe with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a prequel of sorts which expands the magical realm to 1920’s New York City. David Yates continues his tenure as director as he did for the final four films in the Harry Potter franchise and is tasked with helming all five films in this new series. Can this new wizarding tale hold up to the high standards of the boy who lived epic? Let’s begin…accio review!
Magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is your normal run of the mill Hufflepuff, hard working, friendly and loyal to a fault. Passionate about magical creatures from an early age, he traveled the world observing beasts and their behavior in the wild, which is what brings him to New York City. After a niffler escapes his suitcase, Newt searches for the pesky creature in a local bank where he encounters Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) a “no maj”, or non wizard folk, who witnesses Newt’s magical powers and fantastic creatures. Unbeknownst to Newt, another wizard, Porpentina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) has spotted the young wizard and witnesses his reckless actions. As an employee of the Magical Congress of the United States of America, Porpentina must report Newt to the authorities for carrying his magical creatures into the city; only one problem…the suitcase has been mistakenly switched! Faced with the notion that a no maj is in possession of a suitcase full of magical creatures, Tina and Newt head out to find Jacob in hopes to stop him from accidentally setting the creatures free.
But the creatures aren’t the only thing threatening the wizards. Percival Graves (Colin Farrell), a high-ranking Auror and the Director of Magical Security for MACUSA, is in charge of the protection of wizards and set with the task of tracking down Newt. There is also the growing concern of The New Salem Philanthropic Society, an extremist group lead by Mary Lou Barebone (Samantha Morton) who is trying to rally the citizens of New York behind her cause to “out” the members of the wizarding community and rid the world of their unusual powers. She is aided by her adopted son Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller) and a legion of young children looking to assemble an army to their cause. If that wasn’t enough, there’s Gellert Grindelwald, a dark wizard who has caused growing concern after recent attacks on the wizarding community and could reappear at any moment. Newt and Tina must rush against friend and foe to complete their mission before time runs out.
The mind of J.K. Rowling will never cease to amaze me. To take a companion text book about magical creatures that she wrote under the pseudonym of the fictitious author Newt Scamander and turn it into a new film franchise that is exciting and carefully connected to the Harry Potter universe is an exceptional feat. David Yates has become an integral part of the creative process of the wizarding world and his dedication to J.K. Rowling’s source material cannot be duplicated. After successfully navigated the dark storylines of the final books in the Harry Potter series, Yates now brings Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and these new wonderful characters to audiences that are faced with uncharted waters, a film series with no source material to reference! But the film plays out like an old, trusted, well read novel that we, of course, have known all along thanks to both Rowling and Yates.
Eddie Redmayne is outstanding as Newt Scamander, a role he most certainly was destined to play. Accompanied by the lovely and talented actresses Katherine Waterston and Alison Sudol and the lovable no maj Dan Fogler, this team of unlikely heroes is perfectly cast and are the cornerstones in this new tale. Their story is just beginning and fans will be eager to see where the adventures takes them.
Overall, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is an exceptional introduction into this new expansion of J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world. Keep your eyes and ears peeled to the screen for easter eggs and references to the Harry Potter universe and enjoy the adventure, it is worth the trip.
4 1/2 out of 5
After Credit Scene?