Movie: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Directed by: David Yates
Theatrical
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller
Release Date: November 18, 2017
Reviewed by: Courtney DeWitt
Rating: PG-13
FA Scorecard: A

The anticipation and trepidation for a sequel or prequel is always high. After Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part II was released in 2011, the assumption at the time was that this would be the last of the wizarding world we would see. Then the news came of a new project JK Rowling herself was working on for another feature, except this time set in America. Finally, Rowling revealed she would be writing 5 scripts for a series set in the Wizarding World that would be taking place in New York City in the 1920’s. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them gained much excitement and criticism- after all, Rowling had sworn there would be no more books or movies set in this world. Still, many of my friends could not help but be stoked to see Newt Scamander’s story told and maybe see a glimpse of old friends as their younger selves.

Newt Scamander is a magizoologist from the Wizarding World in London who has come to a bustling New York City in the ’20s. With him is a curious little brief case harboring what is clearly not meant for No-Maj, or non-wizard, eyes to see. However, the creatures he has brought with him are not all tame, and some of them escape after an unfortunate briefcase switch. As Scamander scrambles to retrieve his magical friends, a No-Maj named Jacob is caught up in the hullabaloo and finds he can’t stay away from the curiousness of this wizard and his creatures.

In the chaos of trying to catch a particularly slippery creature, the odd pair draws the attention of ex-auror Tina and unfortunately the MACUSA Congress, who is already struggling with keeping the secrecy of the Wizard World. With an abusive and abrasive protester claiming that Wizards are very real and very dangerous, the search for the missing creatures becomes all the more difficult. As the suspicious head auror, Percival Graves, tails the wizards and No-Maj, a dark power wreaks havoc in New York. Can the tenuous friends Newt, Tina, Jacob, and Tina’s sister Queenie gather all the creatures safely and thwart an evil swiftly rising before the wizards are exposed?

As an avid Harry Potter fan, both movie and book, I went into the movie with reservations. I wasn’t sure that the magic I adored could be brought back and enchant me just as much as before. I’m glad I was wrong. Fantastic Beasts had plenty of action and plot to move each minute along, never boring or confusing me. Although the characters might be a bit standard in development and trope, I adored them so much I could hardly care. Eddie Redmayne is absolutely charming and perfect in his role as Newt Scamander, definitely fitting into his role as a Hufflepuff magizoologist. I also loved the small love story between Jacob (Dan Fogler) and Queenie (Alison Sudol), which was filled with reluctance because of their different worlds but also brimming with chemistry. What perhaps touched me the most was the sad story of Credence Barebone, stunningly played by Ezra Miller. The abuse and manipulation he suffers by the anti-wizard Mary Lou brought tears to my eyes and sympathy for his character.         Over-all, ‘Fantastic Beasts’ brought all the magic I had desired. I cared for each character, laughed when they laughed, and despaired when they despaired.

Not only did the wizards and humans brought me satisfaction, but the setting, costume, and wonderfully-designed creatures did as well. Each creature clearly had hours of work put into their design and features, bringing new life to the Wizarding World that we never got to see in Harry Potter’s. From the treasure-hoarding Niffler, to the adorable lockpicking Bowtruckle, to the majestic Thunderbird, I was excited to meet each new creature revealed. Though to be honest, Pickett, the Bowtruckle that sticks to Newt throughout New York, is my favorite of the creatures. The setting of New York in the 1920’s did not lose its luster behind the magical creatures and wizards. Each setting transported me to a time almost now a century away, complete with beautifully crafted costumes. I would personally love to raid Queenie’s wardrobe.

After all is said and done,  Fantastic Beasts is well-worth a watch and fits nicely into the world of wizards that many of us have come to love since The Sorcerer’s Stone first premiered. Whether you come for the insight into the past before Harry Potter’s time or you just come for the action (as my husband did), you will not be disappointed. I know it will be part of my collection as soon as the DVD/Bluray combo hits stores.

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