If you are looking for a fantastic movie and don’t know where to find one, look no further than “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” This new offering from the creative mind of JK Rowling is as fun and entertaining as it is visually stunning.
“Beasts” is not a haphazard production designed only to bilk a few more bucks out of the Harry Potter loyalists. It’s an original story brought to life by standout performances – particularly the work done by Eddie Redmayne – and a bevy of creatures from the adorable to the abominable.
In a world craving more Harry Potter, Rowling has found a way to feed that thirst for movie magic while still keeping options open for other adventures with the boy wizard. The film is based on Newt Scamander, who wrote one of Harry Potter’s textbooks when he starts his training at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
The story starts 90 years ago, in 1926, in New York City. Scamander (Redmayne) has arrived in America on a mission in connection to the menagerie of animals he carries in his beaten up suitcase. A few miscues and accidents later and several of the fantastic beasts have escaped.
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He must round up the creatures while also dealing with the American magical council. Wizards and muggles live in harmony in other spots on the planet, but that’s not the case in the United States. There’s an impending war between those who practice magic and those who don’t, known as no-majs.
Under the guidance of David Yates, who directed the last four Harry Potter films, the movie smoothly moves from comic quests to catch the critters to a serious growing of tensions in the magic world. At the heart of the turmoil is Percival Graves (Colin Farrell), the chief enforcer of the Magical Congress of the United States of America.
All of the small details and clever storylines unfold through standout performances. Redmayne plays Scamander as a shy man who feels far more comfortable with the creatures he’s trying to protect and catalog than with people. The Oscar-wining actor gives the film a heart and emotional soul.
He’s not alone. Katherine Waterston’s Porpentina Goldstein is a feisty cohort who not only handles a wand with ease but offers a budding romantic element. Her sweetness is a nice balance to her sister, Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol) who could charm the spells out of a wizard. Dan Fogler adds comic relief as the no-maj in the group.
Setting the film in 1920s New York is brilliant. The Harry Potter movies have always had this antiquated feel about them, from the steam engine train to quaint shops. A modern setting of “Beasts” would not have felt odd. This setting mirrors the feel of Potter movies.
The movie has Easter eggs for the fans of the Harry Potter books and films. There are links to what happens in the future in Harry Potter’s time.
Those who haven’t read the books will find that this film is more inviting than past films. There isn’t a giant tome of writing behind it. Because this film is based on a screenplay by Rowling and not one of her books, it’s easier for those who aren’t familiar with the world to join in on the fun.
Whether you are a devoted fan or always thought a Harry Potter was a ceramics maker in need of a haircut, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” magically comes together to be a fantastic film.