Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


                I debated whether or not I wanted to see this film when it came out.  I knew that Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was based on the book by J.K. Rowling and a part of the Harry Potter franchise, I just wasn’t sure where this film fit in.  It looked interesting in that fantastic world of Rowling’s wizardry, but I just wasn’t sure.  I elected to wait until it was available On Demand.  This way, if the movie wasn’t as good as the Harry Potter films, I wouldn’t lose as much money as I would in the theater.

                Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them takes place long before the events of Harry Potter – 1926 to be exact.  It is then that British wizard and magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) arrives in New York, on his way to Arizona.  While listening to a speech by the leader of the New Salem Philanthropic Society (Samantha Morton) about the existence and dangers of witches and wizards, a creature escapes the confines of Newt’s briefcase.  As it happens, there are many types of creatures living inside this suitcase, much to the chagrin of Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), a demoted Auror who arrests Newt under the charge of unregistered wizard.

                Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, Newt accidentally swaps briefcases with a cannery worker and aspiring baker named Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler).  When Jacob returns to his tenement, he unwittingly releases a number of creatures from the suitcase and chaos ensues.  Tina and Jacob must work together to recapture these creatures.  Meanwhile, something dark is attacking civilians all over New York, including Senator Henry Shaw, Jr. (Josh Cowdery).  Could it be that something incredibly dark and dangerous escaped from Newt’s suitcase?  Or is there some other monster afoot, something that lashes out with deadly force…or maybe vengeance?

                I wasn’t sure how I would feel about a Harry Potter-like film without our favorite Harry Potter characters running around.  I shouldn’t have worried.  I loved watching this film.  Newt Scamander has that mad scientist feel to him, but when you see how much he cares for the beasts in his charge, you really grow to like him.  Dan Fogler’s Kowalski is the perfect partner for Remayne’s Scamander – the highly intelligent and somewhat scatterbrained wizard teaming up with the blue collar sentimental would-be baker.  One is seeking to keep himself under the radar, while the other can’t help but be loud and boisterous.  I loved the comedic moments between these two.  Surprisingly, I found the romantic tension between Redmayne and Morton to be quite intriguing.  Colin Farrell is amazing as Percival Graves, the Director of Magical Security for MACUSA with a hidden agenda.  Other excellent performances include Alison Sudol as Queenie Goldstein, Tina’s sister; Ron Perlman as Gnarlack, the goblin gangster and Ezra Miller as Credence Barebone, the troubled adopted son of the leader of the New Salem Philanthropic Society. 

And of course, there are terrific performances to be had by all the fantastic creatures and beasts that make their appearance in this film.  The special effects teams had their hands full, what with creating these creatures and bringing them to life and making the magic the wizards perform in the film look as if it were real.  Set designers had their hands full, too, trying to recreate the look of 1920s New York City.  So did the costume designers.  And all achieved their goals admirably.  I was thoroughly enchanted by this film…as engrossed as I was in every single Harry Potter film that came before it.

I really enjoyed the twist at the very end of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.  Just when I thought I had things figured out, I discovered I was wrong.  And just when I thought I knew who the bad guy was in this film, I discovered I was sorely mistaken.  Also enjoyable is the fact that the ending pretty much lends itself to a sequel.  I can’t wait to see more of these characters and their adventures abroad.


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