By Adam Ray Palmer
Today’s review is of the magical spin-off from J. K. Rowling’s original Harry Potter tale about Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
Fantastic Beasts stars Academy Award-winner Eddie Redmayne, Colin Farrell, Ezra Miller and Katherine Waterson.
The wait is finally over, but was it worth it?
Based on J.K. Rowling's original story, it takes place in 1920s New York City and follows Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), a magizoologist and author of a Hogwarts textbook that catalogues magical creatures. Newt networks between New York's secret community of witches and wizards as he must re-capture all his mythical beasts when they escape from his Tardis-like briefcase.
We begin with Newt’s arrival in 1920s Manhattan where a separatist attitude is in abundance as the magical folk certainly do not mix with the ‘no-majs’ (non-magical). The 'muggles' constantly campaign about wizards and witches so Scamander immediately realises he must keep a low profile. However, when a few of his beasts escape from his enormous yet petite suitcase (work that one out), all hell breaks loose.
Newt is caught trying to re-capture a creature by Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), a no-maj, who wants to set up a bakery. From this sequence onwards, their blossoming friendship can begin. The whole story is shaped by this pair centering on how two completely different people can work together. I think J.K. Rowling has woven in a deeper message throughout by using two characters, that from a distance, should never be friends. They not only defy the prejudices around them, but also save New York.
Fantastic Beasts feels like a more grown-up movie this time around as Rowling lets go off the Harry Potter shackles. We’re not surrounded by the friendly Hogwarts backdrop but instead the rustic and dangerous streets of the Big Apple. We get to explore new characters but also new locations which is welcoming after spending over a decade in Dumbledore’s backyard.
One of the best locations in Fantastic Beasts must be the impressive personal zoo in Newt’s suitcase. All the varying and imaginative creatures are a joy to look at, from the adorable Niffler, who loves to steal shiny objects to the awesome and gigantic Thunderbird.
A key area of this movie where the critic battle is won is in the acting. Eddie Redmayne’s curious and gentle Newt is incredibly loveable with his caring nature towards his creatures being very connectable. The audience realise that the beasts are dangerous, but they just need a little looking after. Personally, my favourite character is the no-maj Jacob. Fogler’s character is where we, the audience, can finally be taken on a magical journey and be understood as an outsider. For the first time, a muggle stars in a ‘Harry Potter’ film and we can finally relate to someone. Rowling makes sure we learn everything at the same pace as Jacob and that really benefits the movie and the audience’s participation.
I must mention Alison Sudol’s Queenie, the sister to Katherine Waterson’s Tina. Sudol is spectacular in her ditzy role as the Luna Lovegood-esque character. Queenie and Jacob’s cute relationship is great to watch and makes for a lovely scene at the climax. The relationship between villain Graves (Colin Farrell) and Ezra Miller’s Credence is also pivotal. Ezra is extremely vulnerable and Graves exploits that. Their scenes together are dark and twisted which again, is another step up from the usual more-friendly battles in the Harry Potter tales. The darkness in Fantastic Beasts makes for an epic five-film saga that was recently confirmed. There is no Voldemort-style enemy yet, but I wouldn’t rule it out.
On the whole, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a great return to the big screen for Rowling and Warner Bros. I have been longing for the famous Harry Potter tune to grace cinema ever since the Hogwarts doors closed for the final time a few years ago. Rowling and David Yates (director) have delivered once again with a gift that keeps on giving. With a stellar cast of Redmayne and Fogler, this series will almost certainly be a success (like it was ever not going to be!). J.K. truly is a marvel.
Cineroom’s Rating: 4 Stars
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is currently showing worldwide – certificate 12