Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Review
With plenty of fantastic beasts being found, this magical adventure film will leave you spellbound
J. K. Rowling’s writing leaps off the page in this magical tale set in 1920s New York with wizards and witches aplenty.It’s 1926 and Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is on his way home to sunny old England, but not before a quick stop-off in New York. He’s a Magizoologist who’s been on a trip collecting weird and wonderful creatures from across the globe and he keeps them in a magnificent menagerie which happens to fit neatly and compactly inside his suitcase. In case you hadn’t guessed, Newt is a wizard and a former pupil of Hogwarts (a school for wizards back in England) that is, until he got kicked out for endangering others with one of his creatures. What should have been a fairly uneventful stopover turns into a magical case of hide and seek when a few of his creatures escape after Newt accidentally switches suitcases with a No-Maj. In case you're wondering, that's the American term for a Muggle, better known as a human with no magical abilities. Unfortunately for Newt this has happened at a pretty prickly time, with the city experiencing strange and destructive occurrences.As a result the Magical Congress of the USA (MACUSA) has enforced strict rules and regulations for all wizards and witches, one of which is a ban on all magical creatures. Adding to the already tense situation is a group of Salem like witch hunters who are determined to expose and end all forms of sorcery. Desperate to recapture his beloved creatures Newt and his new No-Maj friend, Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), set about trying to find his nifty critters. Helping them along are sisters Porpentina (Katherine Waterston) and Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol), both of whom are witches. Porpentina being a former Auror - magic police within the MACUSA - sees Newt as her way back into the force but as the plot develops both sisters become rather fond of the young and naive wizard and his portly chum, winding up forming the other half of this team caught up in something much bigger than just a few escaped beasties.
Judge me if you will, but I have never read nor seen any of the Harry Potter books or films and was therefore not entirely overly excited about reviewing Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them. So with this in mind, it came as a bit of a surprise to discover that I found it thoroughly enjoyable. From the off Redmayne is totally sweet with his awkward demeanour fully embodying the whole ‘outsider’ type. Contrasting Newt is Fogler’s Jacob who’s character is funny and uplifting in all his bemused and befuddled states of awe. Both Waterson and Sudol are great in their roles - again a pair of opposites; Porpentina is much more reserved and down to earth whereas Queenie is fun loving and definitely up for the adventure that lies ahead of them all. It’s these four characters at the centre of the story that really makes it work, they’re all just so nice and get to the heart and soul of this film, effortlessly managing to get the audience behind them the whole way. And don’t even get me started on the cute and adorable creatures that are stored away in Newt’s bag of tricks. Each one completely different to the next and all desperate to be made into soft cuddly toys. I won’t spoil the fun by explaining each of them, but there are many and some have great scenes.
This really is a film with a huge cast with a small appearance from John Voight and Gemma Chan to larger roles from the likes of Collin Farrell who plays Percival Graves, Director of Magical Security for the MACUSA, assigned to looking into the strange events taking place in New York. Ezra Miller stars as Credence, an orphan adopted by Mary Lou (Samantha Morton) leader of the New Salem Philanthropic Society (NSPS) who’s a fearful mother to the many children she tasks with spreading the word on the evil of wizards and witches that she believes live among them.
Newt Scamander will give Harry Potter a run for his money in this wizardry escapade
Directed by David Yates who also directed four of the eight Harry Potter films, Fantastic Beasts is sure to please fans of the Potter franchise. A prequel of sorts, Fantastic Beasts delivers all the magic and wonder that I would imagine caused such a huge following of the Potter books and films and undoubtedly in part due to J. K. Rowling’s writing ability - she wrote the film and produced it. Filmed at Warner Bros. huge studio facilities and part on location in Liverpool (doubling for New York), the film really does well in transporting the audience back to the 1920s, from the costuming to the small details found in the home of the Goldstein sisters to the magical speakeasy the foursome visit in order to extract information on where one of Newt’s creatures may be lurking. The cinematography and CGI was wonderful throughout and despite being heavily used didn’t feel obvious or out of place, just part and parcel of the whole product.
There are a few story threads that were set up but didn’t go anywhere, although I get the impression that those will be picked up in one of the planned sequels. As such the film does sometimes fall into the modern trap of setting up a new franchise, rather than simply telling a self-contained story. However overall the film is well-paced throughout actively keeping the audience engaged and wondering what’s round the next corner.
Thankfully there’s no need to rush out and read all of the Harry Potter books or watch all the films. Apart from a few references which even I got, as it must be common knowledge, there isn’t any need to have any back history of this wizarding world at all as everything gets fully explained along the way. The opening of the film sets up the bigger picture and one that I’m sure the rest of the franchise will deal with and even though there is an attempt at a big reveal it is slightly predictable but that said Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them truly is escapism at its best and a darn good watch with great performances.
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