MOVIE REVIEW – FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM
Oh how I have missed the wonderful world that J.K. Rowling had created for all of us. Thankfully, we muggles, get to step into this world again with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Warning, spoilers ahead…
Fans of Harry Potter already know of the character Newt Scamander (Eddie Ray from the original series of books and films. Here, we get to see his story come to life in 1926 New York City. Newt arrives in New York in search of a fantastic beast to bring back and keep safe in his suitcase. However, the other beasts that reside inside keep escaping and causes mischief that brings him to the attention of a wizarding community that is well hidden from the “no-maj” (short for no magic) population. It’s the American version of the term muggle. Personally I prefer muggle. They’re hidden out of fear not only of being persecuted but also of a potential war that could break between does with magic and those without. The risk to all is too costly.
Feeding into those fears is a group called the “Second-Salemers” led by the abusive Mary Lou Barebone (Samantha Morton). Here we meet her adoptive son Credence (Ezra Miller), who will turn out to be a central figure between both worlds. I wish the character of Mary were better fleshed out given the perception we were given of her importance. It seems like she’s only there to move Credence story along. A greater influence on Credence is Percival Graves (Colin Farrell), a high ranking Auror and Director of Magical Security for the MACUSA (Magical Congress of the United States). Beyond wanting to track down Newt, Graves’s interests in Credence are not completely known by the end. Much of this film serves as a setup for future installments. There are a lot of open-ended questions to be answered.
Assisting Newt in capturing those runaway beasts, albeit not necessarily because they wanted to but rather by circumstance is a “no-maj” pastry baker named Jacob Kowalkski (Dan Fogler), a wizarding detective who fell out of favor with the MACUSA, Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) and her mind reading sister Queenie (Alison Sudol). The pacing could be better as one of the draw backs to some of the previous Harry Potter films went on a bit longer than it was necessary. The special effects turns out to be the real champions here along with those amazing looking beasts. Director Yates knows this world almost as well as Rowling herself with this being his fourth film in the Harry Potter universe. The controversial addition for some hardcore fans of Johnny Depp as Grindelwald, a dark wizard with close ties to Dumbledore, in the final act sets up the sequel perfectly and gives us something to not only discuss but also look forward to when the magic returns.
Going back to Redmayne for a moment, he is quickly becoming one of Hollywood’s finest actors. And seeing him in the end with this long and colorful scarf, one couldn’t help but think how he would make the perfect Doctor Who. But I digress.
Overall, Fantastic Beasts might not be quite like Harry Potter, but it does tap into its incredible mythology in a way only Rowling’s magical mind could create.
Directed by: David Yates
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol, Dan Fogler, Colin Farrell and Samantha Morton
PG-13 132 Mins
FANTASTIC BEASTS – ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
May the Dork be with you,
The Dork Knight