Friday, November 18, 2016 marks the official theatrical release of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the lastest film in J.K. Rowling‘s ‘Wizarding World of Harry Potter’ franchise, and the first film penned by Rowling herself. Director David Yates returns for his fifth time in the big chair of a Wizarding World entry (after directing the last four Harry Potter films).
But with so much hype surrounding it, how did Fantastic Beasts actually measure up? Read on in this 100% SPOILER FREE REVIEW to see for yourselves!
Based on the Harry Potter spinoff book of the same name, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them tells the story of Newt Scamander (played by Eddie Redmayne of The Danish Girl and The Theory of Everything) who arrives in New York City in the mid 1920s carrying a strange magical suitcase filled with all manner of exotic, otherworldly animals. Scamander traveled to the United States from his home in England with the intention of finding a new magical creature to catalog. Along the way, he runs into an extremist group, the “Second Salemers” led by a fantatical “No Maj” (that’s the American term for “Muggle”) named Mary Lou Barebone (Samantha Morton of In America and The Libertine) who seems to be aware of the hidden world of wizardry and is out to put a stop to it once and for all.
After a few of his magical creatures escape and run rampant through New York, Scamander is aided by Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterson of Steve Jobs and Inherent Vice) an agent of MACUSA (the Magical Congress of the United States of America) who, along with her sister Queenie (played by singer/songwriter Alison Sudol) and No-Maj factory worker and aspiring baker Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler of Fanboys and Take Me Home Tonight) try to help safely capture the magical creatures without any harm coming to them, before a new magical creature shows up and starts really tearing the place up, killing several people in its path.
Meanwhile, higher -ranking MACUSA agent Percival Graves (played by none other than Colin Farrell) is hot on their tails, and seems to be up to something himself, as he tries to eliminate the threats once and for all. Who will get to the fantastical creatures first? Will any of them be able to stop or contain them? What is really going on in the magical world behind the scenes of New York? And how does this all play into that now-famous modern Hogwarts textbook – “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”? All of these questions will be answered… and yes, there is a lot – and I do mean A LOT – of other stuff going on here, but in trying to keep this review 100% spoiler-free, that’s all I’m going to say about the plot, characters, and general premise… yes, in hopes of keeping you all wondering/unaware (as any of you who have seen it probably already know as you read this.)
Visually speaking, this film is exactly what you’d expect from a film in the Potterverse, and that’s really all that needs to be said there. The effects are very well done, the magical creatures (you know, the fantastic beasts mentioned in the title) are all very well executed, and the period setting is exceptional – really helping with the suspension of disbelief. The cast all do a fine job, with Redmayne really bringing to life the quirky, bumbling, adorably awkward Newt Scamander, channeling equl parts 11th Doctor in Doctor Who and well, every clumsy British teenager in cinematic history. This is sure to win the hearts of the target audience, and by target audience, yes, I absolutely do mean Potterverse fangirls… sue me.
There’s plenty of fan service throughout the film, which should come to the surprise of exactly no one, considering the fact that 90% of the people who watch this movie will be die-hard Harry Potter fans… as if there is a such thing as a casual Harry Potter fan, but I digress. Lots of little things are scattered throughout this one just to give the longtime fans something to smile about. We even get a couple of cool cameos from big names such as Ron Perlman and Johnny Depp thrown in there for good measure… although, I won’t tell you where, just know to look for them.
The Bottom Line:
Overall, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is exactly everything it should have been, for exactly the audience it was intended for. Although it wasn’t a perfect film, to be sure, it never once needed to be. This was, at its purset essence, a film specifically for Harry Potter fans, first and foremost, although it was a fine sort of fantasy children’s movie on its own merits as well – Potterverse or not. At the end of the day, there will probably be some cinematic elitists out there that will find some way to take issue with this movie, quite frankly, it was clearly never intended for them, and they should just shut up, move on, and leave this one for who it was really made for… the fans. Ultimately, this movie was just fun… no more, no less… and really, that’s all it ever needed to be. – 8.0/10
Editor/Staff Writer: Nerd Nation Magazine