Movie Name: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Studio: Heyday Films
Release Date(s): November 10, 2016 (Premiere)/November 18, 2016 (US)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
It is 1926, and Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) has travelled to America with a mission. He has brought with him in his magical zoo of a suitcase a Thunderbird which he hopes to reintroduce to the deserts of Arizona. Unfortunately, Newt gets his suitcase mixed up with a No-Maj named Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) who releases a number of Newt’s creatures into the streets of New York City. With anti-witch sentiment growing, something else is brewing in the city…something that cannot be see and something more dangerous than anything in Newt’s suitcase. It is up to Newt, Jacob, an Auror named Porpentiana “Tina” Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), and her sister Queenie (Alison Sudol) to stop it before the magical world is exposed.
Directed by David Yates, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a fantasy spin-off from the Harry Potter films. With a script written by J.K. Rowling (based on her short 2001 novel of the same name), the movie was released to positive reviews, and a big box office return. The film won an Academy Award for Best Costume Design and was nominated for Best Production Design.
I saw all the Harry Potter and read all the Harry Potter books (minus this short book). Though I felt the last couple movies of Harry Potter were a little weak, I am still willing to watch a Harry Potter film. Magical Beasts and Where to Find Them is part of the Harry Potter-verse, but feels different.
Unlike the other Harry Potter films, I went into the movie with no idea of the characters or story. The decision to have an “American” story allows for a lot of exploration. You get to see how American handle magic, and see that all the worries of the Harry Potter films about exposure to Muggles (or No-Majs here) was pretty much talk since the entire city of New York blew up and was magically forgotten. The Americanization of Harry Potter feels a little like when Doctor Who goes to U.S…it is weird since it is such a uniquely English world.
The cast is good. Eddie Redmayne continues to expand his acting range with each role. Dan Fogler is a different choice for a sidekick which Harry Potter excelled in as well. Katherine Waterston is good as the nice girl romantic lead that finds trouble but Alison Sudol as Queenie steals a lot of her scenes. Colin Farrell is so obviously the bad guy that it isn’t a very good “surprise” when he is revealed. Ezra Miller and Samantha Morton are good as the creepy magic haters, but I am assuming that Jon Voight and his screen son Ronan Raftery will be expanded in future movies because they served little point here.
Visually the movie falls in line with the other Harry Potter films. It feels a bit more like the early Christopher Columbus Harry Potter films but it also is challenged because it is based in the reality of New York City instead of a fantasy world. I wish that more had been done with “old” New York in that sense but it does have fun with the fantasy aspects.
A bit messy and sloppy at points, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is an interesting start to a new franchise that isn’t destined like Harry Potter. It is easy to read current events into the film but the xenophobia and danger lurking in the movie seems much more palpable…something that I’m sure will increase as the franchise moves forward. With plans to turn the story into five movies, this adds more life to the Harry Potter mythos.