We return to the wizarding world in Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them with a new location, new time period, new threats and new wizards. With no 500 page book to follow can this film bring the magic back?
The year is 1926 and Newt Scamander has just completed a global excursion to find and document an extraordinary array of magical creatures. Arriving in New York for a brief stopover, he might have come and gone without incident…were it not for a No-Maj (American for Muggle) named Jacob, a misplaced magical case, and the escape of some of Newt’s fantastic beasts, which could spell trouble for both the wizarding and No-Maj worlds.
The film wastes no time in bringing us back to the wizard world with the beginning credits using magical newspapers that move and change in front of your eyes. The headlines give us the audience clues to the story so far and what to expect as well as establishing the time frame of the story.
The film follows the adventures of Newt Scamander in New York when things go from funny to interesting to dangerous to, well that would be telling. In the course of the movie we are introduced to lots of new magical creatures and it shows us a new side to the wizarding world, a side that explores the wider world and who or what lives in it.
The cast is made up of well-known faces and some new ones and it feels fresh. Eddie Redmayne’s portrayal as Newt Scamander is a joy to watch. He talks with his hands, his eyes, in fact nearly everything apart from his voice. He has created a truly unique performance with Newt and I look forward to seeing how this grows over the next four films.
Colin Farrell seems to be having a lot of fun with Percival Graves, who acts as the police for the American wizard council. We know Farrell can do mean, or strange, or deranged but here he piles it all into one act and it works. Credence, the boy with issues, is played by Ezra Miller in a creepy performance that has some hidden layers.
Newt is joined on his adventure by three friends, the first of which is the caring yet determined Porpentina Goldstein brought to life by Katherine Waterston. Goldstein works for the Magic council and wants to do her best to keep magic safe and out of sight of the non magic folk. Queenie Goldstein is the slightly mad yet lovable sister of Porpentina and Alison Sudol does an infectious job with the role The final part of our magical Scooby gang is played by Dan Fogler as Jacob Kowalski who in my mind is the real hero of the film. Despite being a non magic user he keeps up with the best of them and shines. The cast is rounded out by Jon Voight who was a bit wasted in the film but I hope he will be back for future films.
The film’s director David Yates is well versed with the wizard world having directed the last four Potter films. He feels at home directing Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them and it was a wise choice to give him the keys to the kingdom once again. Unlike the Harry Potter films there is no real book of substance to work from apart from a small tie in book. This is where J K Rowling comes in by writing the screenplay and mapping out the stories for the next four films as well.
The movie has just as many digital characters as it does human ones which means more CGI and for the most part it all looks amazing. There are a few scenes where the CGI was let down for a few of the fantastic beasts but that is just a nitpick. The actual designs of these creatures are a wonder to watch and to see them all come to life is magical.
James Newton Howard composed the score for this film and I have always admired his work. Here he brings some of the Hogwarts themes but also creates some new ones but nothing memorable on initial viewing like the first Harry Potter film. However I am sure it will grow on me.
Overall Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is an amazing magical film full of wonder, danger and also hope.
Two wands up from me.