Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a fantasy film directed by David Yates. It is a spin-off and prequel to the Harry Potter film series and was written by J. K. Rowling. The film stars Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Samantha Morton, Jon Voight, Carmen Ejogo, and Colin Farrell.
The Story/The Direction:
This film takes place 65 years prior to the original Harry Potter films in 1926 in New York City. New Scamander (Redmayne) arrives with a suitcase full of magical creatures which get loose in New York City. To get them back, he must interact with Tina Goldstein (Waterston), a former Auror, her sister Queenie (Sudol), and Jacob Kowalski (Fogler), a No-Maj. Along the way, they find distractions from the non-magical community, the magical community, and the creatures themselves.
David Yates returns as director after the prior four Harry Potter films and does a solid job in showing new elements of the Harry Potter world. He creates a fairly entertaining and fun film by putting the creatures front and center. This film marks the first attempt by Rowling with a screenplay to bring back the magic of her original stories in a new world. Unlike the originals, this film discusses themes of repression and rejection. This film does provide the same amount of wonder and heart as the original films thanks to some of its characters.
Being a movie that introduces essentially brand new characters to a franchise can be a daunting task given the fandom of the Harry Potter series. However, this film does this fairly well. Newt's knowledge helps the audience learn more about the world that they love so much. Redmayne plays this character in a very likable way even though he is fairly overshadowed by the creatures he knows so much about. Waterston is also fairly charming but the best human characters are played by Fogler and Sudol. They bring life into their characters and have some great chemistry. They are more than comic relief and their relationship is honestly better than that of Newt and Tina. The other cast members are serviceable but aren't given much to do. The best part of this film is the creatures which are given all unique traits that make them extremely fun to both learn about and see.
A lot of the characters are barely used and frankly are fairly forgettable. This film has a stellar cast but they are not given much to do. Honestly, even Newt is not much of a protagonist and it is very hard to stay invested in what he wants to do. There is no real villain of the story aside from an overlying presence of Grindelwald but he is not really an issue until the end of the film. The film's plot, unfortunately, is not as rigid as the other Harry Potter films. It seems that this film was not written with the same vigor as the prior stories were. The film is there to build the world these characters are in but the final act is fairly underwhelming. It's not an awful third act but the story does not seem to have its character's change over the course of the film.
This is not the best Harry Potter film by any means but it does stand alone and it is a fun ride. The creatures are a lot of fun and any fan of the original films will find something enjoyable in this very good yet flawed film.
Rating: 4.0/5.0 bowties
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