Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol, Dan Fogler
Directed by David Yates
I am still riding off the high of how much I loved this movie after seeing it last night.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is set in 1920s New York, at a time when No-Maj’s (the American version of ‘muggle’) are on a technological boom and the wizarding community has created strict laws against the intermingling of both species.
Newt Scamander (Redmayne) arrives in New York City with a briefcase full of wondrous beasts, but one persistent niffler keeps trying to escape. A niffler is a creature which can’t resist shiny objects. It likes to collect and hoard them by somehow hiding these items in its body. While Newt is distracted by a Second Salemer’s protest outside of a bank, his niffler gets loose and creates havoc.
This leads to the meeting of a handful of important characters, who all eventually end up assisting Newt as he attempts to collect the missing magical creatures that later escape from his case. Newt must prove to the Magical Congress of the United States of America that it isn’t his creatures murdering people on the streets, but something darker.
Fantastic Beasts spins an enchanting tale of adventure, humor, and suspense in the first of four more movies to come. As someone who was cautiously excited about a new franchise set in the wizarding world I grew up reading about, I fell quickly in love with Fantastic Beasts within the first few minutes. Perhaps it had something to do with “Hedwig’s Theme” playing as the title screen appeared, or maybe it had to do with the flash of newspapers informing people the terror of Grindelwald’s reign, or maybe it was the return of magic familiar to us as it was in the Harry Potter movies.
What sealed the deal for me was when Newt took us out of the No-Maj world and into the incredible habitats of his briefcase. Inside were beasts and creatures that would be hard to make up on your own. One of my favorite lines in the movie was from Jacob, a No-Maj who somehow ends up tagging along on Newt’s adventures. When he sees what kind of creatures Newt has caught, he tells Newt, “I know I can’t be dreaming because I could never make something like this up!”
There are some disappointed fans out there who have problems with some character development or the lack of color when it came to casting spells. One such character was Tina (Waterston), an ex-auror, who constantly gets in Newt’s way because he keeps breaking wizarding laws.
While it was hard for me to like Tina’s character, I could accept her because the movie flies at a pace full of urgency. There was no real time for Newt to sit down with her and ask her questions. Her motivations behind her actions are pretty self-explanatory when she gets chastised for continually disrupting private meetings with the president of the magical congress.
Still, by the end of the film, I was enchanted. Newt is an adorable character who has a love and understanding of magical creatures that not everyone in his community gets. The teamwork of Newt and Jacob as they herd magical creatures back into Newt’s briefcase was so fun to watch. It was great to have another movie out that continues the wizarding world’s story, even if it is a prequel.
It’s exciting to have new movies written by J.K. Rowling without knowing what to expect from reading it in a book beforehand. Each new movie will hopefully bring a sense of wonder and amazement from life as a wizard in the 1930s-40s.
The bar has been set and my expectations for the sequels are high.
Photo credit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ViuDsy7yb8M