Directed by David Yates Starring Eddie Redmayne, Colin Farrell, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Ezra Miller, Alison Sudol, & Jon Voight Film Review by Chris Olson
Duh, duuuh, duh, duh, duuuuh, duh, duuuuh...duh, duuuh, duh, duh, duuuuh, duh, duuuuh. Never before has one of my film reviews started in such a bizarre fashion, but never before have movie audiences been treated to such a bizarre phenomenon as the world created by J. K. Rowling. The instantly recognisable score (see above) that accompanies the onset of those huge WB letters sparks an indescribable job in the hearts of viewers. Yes, it has been 5 years since the last movie instalment of the Harry Potter franchise was tearfully delivered, to a fan base so devoted to the cause that an infinite number of offshoot endeavours would be demanded to take its place (from theme parks to merchandise), if only to numb the feeling of loss for a short while. When it was announced that the wizarding world famously created by Rowling was to be explored with a new film, fans erupted across the globe in unison, like sparks from a Weasley Wizard Wheezes toy. Then with the news that Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was the be the first of 5 films, there was pandemonium! But could the magic be recaptured with a completely new set of characters, actors, and even time era? As the title suggests, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is pretty fearless when it comes to being its own...ahem...beast. The plot follows a brand new protagonist, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), who has travelled to New York bearing a suitcase filled with magical creatures, a wizard on a particular mission. Calamity ensues, however, when his delicate cargo manages to escape and elude him, wreaking havoc across the busy NY streets of the 1920s. After a run in with an Aura called Tina (Katherine Waterston), as well as a muggle-cum-baker Jacob (Dan Fogle), who become his aides in trying to recapture the Fantastic Beasts, Newt's trip to the Big Apple reveals turbulent goings on between the magical and muggle world.
By keeping the same creative team of Warner Brothers, director David Yates, producer David Heyman, as well as Rowling writing the script, no amount of authenticity is lost in the movie. Never does it feel like a crude copy, and neither does it shamelessly pilfer from the Harry Potter source material in order to get quick and cheap gratification. Yes a few nods of the head occur, but they are done with the story in mind. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them benefits from being its own movie, one which is one of the most imaginative and thrilling films in years. As you might expect, no expense is spared making this a visually stunning movie. From the beautifully recreated period look of New York, which was reminiscent of the sumptuous Brooklyn, to the simply astounding fantasy world found in Newt's suitcase, everything in this movie is nothing short of cinematic splendour. The score, from James Newton Howard, is everything you want it to be. Pounding and rousing when required, delicate and emotive when the heartfelt tugs of Rowling's story emerge.
The performances are wonderful. Redmayne's coy and awkward British Invasion is sublime to observe as he traverses the city landscape filled with aggressive New Yorkers. Fogle as Jacob is excellently funny and has some of the best comic moments, especially with Queenie (Alison Sudol), who is Tina's mind-reading sister. The real star of this show are the creatures though. Superbly brought to life with so much attention to detail, the result is mindblowing and what makes the film feel so far ahead of the Potter films. It was a slight shame not to see more of Ezra Miller, who is always great to watch on screen, but the parts he was in were still enigmatic. So, not only can the world breathe a huge sigh of relief that 2016 didn't also ruin Harry Potter for them, they can also be well chuffed it gave them a front runner for one of the most exciting and promising film franchises in a long time.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is now available to watch in UK Cinemas and IMAX.