When it was announced that the Harry Potter universe would be at the center of a new set of films I had the feeling that Warner Brothers was rolling over it’s milked cash cow and was now harvesting it for meat. Furthermore, it was revealed the this wouldn’t be one or two films but five in total and I was pretty bored with that thought. It was obvious that David Yates, the man behind the camera for the last four Harry Potter films, would helm this one but creator J.K Rowling being the screenwriter for this new endeavor? That was new and had me intrigued, even if she was telling the media that this wasn’t a prequel or a sequel. Really? Then what is this?
This film follows Newt Scamander, a magizoologist and writer with a briefcase full of the unknown. Arriving on a boat from England, he is fresh faced in New York, looking to continue his work on his book and settle some business with the creatures in his carry-all. Immediately he crosses paths with Mary Lou Barebone, an activist against “witches” and someone that poses a public threat to those who practice magic. He also is thrust into a situation involving a “non maj” (muggle) named Jake who is hoping to get a loan from the bank when one of Newt’s creatures gets loose and causes mayhem. Jake is quickly brought along for a ride that puts them in the crosshairs of a plucky member of the MACUSA (Magical Congress of the United States of America), Porpentina Goldstein, who is looking to restore her tarnished name in the agency.
Imagine the shock on my face when the credits rolled as I realized I had just sat through a, no pun intended, fantastic movie. Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them is the next step after the Harry Potter films for the fans who grew up on the movies. It is a big and fast paced adventure that has a grown up feel within all the magic and creature effects. It is a movie that is so entertaining and well put together that, at least in my opinion, if they keep continuing down this road they may just eclipse the Harry Potter pantheon of films. Seriously, this spin-off story (if I can say that, J.K.?) has a lot of promise for more great stuff.
As fatigued as I’ve been feeling with Eddie Redmayne, and not to say I don’t respect his acting work, but this role of Newt seems like it was written with him in mind. He’s playful and shy, which makes you adore him on the big screen and his work with co-stars Katherine Waterston as Goldstein and Dan Fogler as Jake just elevates all of them in the process. As ready as I was to be on the fence about Fantastic Beasts, I found myself unable to resist the charm and overwhelming fantasy adventure feeling of this new Potter universe journey. Skeptics will be converted, believe me. If I can change my tune, so can you! 4.5/5