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Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them Review


Five years after the Harry Potter saga ended, it’s pretty clear J.K. Rowling misses the wildly imaginative and inventive wizarding world she had created. The Boy Who Lived's story continues on the stage in The Cursed Child, while on the big screen she’s trying her hand at screenwriting for the first time with Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, taking inspiration from a Hogwarts ‘textbook’ published for Comic Relief, with seasoned Potter director David Yates (responsible for the last four movies of these series) joining her to bring a magical 1920’s New York to life, complete with smartly dressed wizard cops, goblin speakeasies, and all manner of havoc causing creatures. But is the (for lack of a better word) magic still there? Can a new franchise be born from a fake book written for charity? The answer is a resounding yes, with this new direction for the franchise (and it’s all adult cast) allowing Rowling to play around with darker, more complex storytelling while still retaining the spark that made her original creation so beloved.

Kicking off with the familiar opening strains of that John Williams score, the movie wastes no time in getting all the pieces in place, with magizooligist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) arriving in New York City, suitcase carrying dozen of magical creatures firmly gripped in his hand. 1920’s America are a much different place than fans are used to, with the magical community banned from interacting normal humans (dubbed No-Maj’s) for fear that they will be exposed and forced to go to war (themes of racism and bigotry are much more prevalent here than they were before). Of course, Scamander doesn’t help matters any when some of his creatures escape, forcing him to team up with No-Maj Jacob (Dan Folger) and magical sisters Tina and Queenie (Katherine Waterston and Alison Sudol) to track them down, while dodging the attention of the Magical Congress of the United States of America, or MACUSA.

That’s really the main thrust of the narrative, and these misadventures feel pretty episodic as Newt and co. stumble on a creature, antagonise it, and then put it back in the surprisingly spacious suitcase where it belong. While entertaining (especially a bust up in a jewellery store that will plaster a huge smile across your face), it feels a bit wash, rinse, repeat at times. Thankfully, in amongst all the monster wrangling the spectre of dark wizard Gellert Grindlewald and his reign of terror claws away at the edges of the main tale, adding another layer to the narrative (even if guessing outcome doesn’t really tax the brain too much). Yes, Rowling has done a powerful evil wizard before, but here the fear Grindlewald instills feels that bit more palatable, and the overall tone is darker because of it. It doesn’t overpower the film’s underlying good nature though, just gives the ongoing narrative a little more oomph.

With Yates pretty much the Harry Potter at this stage, it’s no surprise that he handles the material with a steady hand, ably bringing this new chapter of the franchise to life. The world he has built here is absolutley stunning, filled with wonderful little details that add to it feeling real and lived in. There is a familiarity there that will ease fans in like a warm hug, but it’s still different enough that the movie stands on its own two feet at the end of the day. The creature designs are also incredibly engaging, and every one we’re introduced too is stuffed to the gills with so much personality that they threaten to steal the show from their human counterparts. Thankfully, everyone involved holds their own, with Redmayne incredibly charming as the absent minded Scamander and taking to the Wizarding World like a duck to water. His supporting cast fare just as well, especially Ezra miller as the tortured Credence and Folger and Sudol, who take centre stage in the movie’s sweetest subplot. Colin Farrell’s Percival Graves can be menacing at times, but is lacking in real motivation beyond being the bad guy. Thankfully, Samantha Morton picks up the slack and runs with it as leader of the Second Salemers, an anti-magic hate group, stopping just short of making you boo and hiss when she’s on screen.

With four more films planned, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them ushers you into this new world wonderfully, serving as the perfect first act that leaves you waiting for the further adventures of Newt Scamander with bated breath.


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The Movie Bit: Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them Review
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