Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Dan Folger, Fine Frenzy, Colin Farrell, Ezra Miller, Johnny Depp
Directed By: David Yates
My Rating: 5/5 stars
We did our waiting. Five years of it! And it was more than worth the wait.
“Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them” marks the beginning of a new era of the “Harry Potter” series storyline, one that takes place in 1926, long before Harry became a wizarding world phenomena.
As we dove into a new universe across the pond, we were naturally introduced to American wizarding terms and branches of government. The Ministry of Magic is now called the “Magical Congress of the United States of America.” Ilvermorny is the United States’ school of Witchcraft and wizardry. “No-Maj” is the term given to non-magic folks, and they’re forbidden to marry witches and wizards.
To make matters worse, the Magical Congress is in distress, as the New Salem Philanthropic Society is trying to make American wizardry obsolete.
The character of magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is something of a pinnacle example as to what a Hufflepuff is. Scamander is a mischievous fellow who has faced expulsion from Hogwarts and is in New York as a sort-of layover with the hopes of finding a magical creature breeder. While his goal is to simply research the namesake “fantastic beasts” so he can explain to the Wizarding World that they’re not a bunch of scary monsters, an escaped niffler endangers his goal and nearly has him arrested.
To make matters worse, he’s caught the attention of the Brooklyn-accented no-maj Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), who falls in love with the legilimency (mind-reader) witch Queenie Goldstein (Fine Frenzy). Eventually, Goldstein is held responsible for taking care of Scamander and Kowalski, along with her Magical Congress-employed sister, Tina.
On top of all this, Newt must capture his beloved beasts before they get taken away from him by the Congress.
When an acclaimed series like “Harry Potter” announces a new movie, standards are always high. Fans have been hopeful of another “Harry Potter” series movie for years. The task of journeying into the backstory of a textbook is a bold one, but clever, especially when the character of Newt Scamander was played with much respect by an actor whose childhood was also full of magic admiring.
“I was obsessed with magic as a child,” Redmayne told People magazine for their November 21 issue. “She [J.K. Rowling] has this extraordinary imagination, but I think where a lot of these characters come from are places in her heart, or the people she knows.”
Rowling’s imagination and character relatability is something we’ve seen all throughout Harry Potter’s time at Hogwarts, and she brought that aspect in full force for “Beasts.” There was a strong feeling that this was a group of actors and moviemakers who knew what movie they were producing and wanted to do the series justice for the fans. As a massive fan of the 1920’s, the “giggly water” (Jazz Age slang for alcohol) references and period costumes made me especially geek out.
The movie was a refreshing alternate take on the wizarding world. Where “Harry Potter” dedicated itself to the antics of a young boy trying to fight the good-vs.-evil battle, “Beasts” explored a different aspect of magic: a wizard dedicating his life to researching animals and enlightening the world that these creatures are not to be feared, but to be loved.
The way the producers took advantage of today’s special effects is incredible. Waiting for this movie to come out included making the most of Hollywood’s special effects to such a degree where every feather and every emotion of Newt’s creatures look astoundingly realistic. Even though book-based movies don’t usually go for Oscars (save for Redmayne’s “Theory of Everything), the dedication to making the creatures comes to life deserves an award for it’s CGI.
Much like Newt’s briefcase, J.K. Rowling again reminded us that her imagination is seemingly endless. To top it off, we’re promised four more movies in the series. As a Potterhead, I can vouch that we’ve been praying for a new adventure, and the idea of basing a story on the makings of an important Hogwarts textbook is the very story many of us have been waiting to discover.
In the words of Jacob Kowalski, “I haven’t got the brains to make this up!”
If you can’t make it to theaters, I highly suggest getting your hands on a copy of the “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” script. The storyline was exceptionally touching to me as an individual who prefers puppies over people, with tear-jerking moments like when Newt pleaded to the Magical Congress, “Please don’t harm my creatures!”
We may fear the unknown, but we also must embrace it. With climate change being such an important topic being discussed, the movie also serves as a reminder to love the Earth.
“Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them” reminds us that the “Harry Potter” saga is not only endless, but quite literally timeless. The film takes full advantage of Hollywood’s special effects and imagination, while giving the utmost respect to Rowling’s incredible visions.
I promise you that even a no-maj may find beauty in this film, especially if they enjoyed the Harry Potter movies, and I hope that they do.
Review by Morgan Connelly