Few book series have had a cultural impact like Harry Potter has; that same love for the wizarding world created by J.K. Rowling transferred to the inevitable film franchise that followed, a franchise we thought done over five years ago, but Rowling and David Yates have teamed up yet again and conjured up a new spin off series, Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them. But it does recapture the magic (You had to know that was coming) of it’s predecessors?
Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is a wizard visiting New York, with a brief case full of weird and wonderful creatures that just so happen to be released into the world of muggles (Or No-Majs, as they’re called in 1920s America). It’s up to Newt, with the help of new companions Tina (Katherine Waterston) and Jacob (Dan Fogler), to return all of his creatures to his case, before the wizarding world is exposed.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a perfectly enjoyable follow up; it doesn’t rely too heavily on Harry Potter, though at the same time, it definitely wouldn’t have been as good without it. You need the context of the Harry Potter world (apparentlymore so in the planned sequels) to truly appreciate the wide world created in this film. We get a very interesting look at the way magic works in this film, in a way that differs from Harry Potter, and while there some great moments, it does at times feel underused. The main example of this would be that the titular ‘Fantastic Beasts’, while prominent, feel kind of superflous to the film. They have their scenes, they provoke some plot points, but they feel like the element, you should be focusing on least. From a certain perspective, it’s a not bad thing; you could argue that this encourages viewers to focus more on the plot and supporting characters, which ultimately end up being more important, but at the same time, it’s rather underwhelming for a film that’s advertised almost entirely around these creatures.
Where this film really shines is it’s characters and performances; Eddie Redmayne plays Newt Scamander to perfection, bringing to life a character whose past is never fully revealed, but pieces are placed through Redmayne’s performance alone. He’s quirky and kind, and full of wonder, but there’s something about him that’s a little broken, and twitchy and scared. It lays excellent ground work for what’s to come in future installments. Waterston is good, Colin Farrell kills as the villanous Percival Graves, but the real star of the film is Dan Fogler. Jacob is easily the best character in the film; he’s hilarious, he’s loveable, the most relatable, and by far the one you care about most. There are many good things about this film, but the whole product would be weaker if Fogler wasn’t in it. He is the heart of the film, and is absolutely essential.
There’s so much praise about this film, from it’s amazing visuals and costume design, to it’s excellent writing and the way it handles it’s characters (Credence in particular is done in a very interesting way, making for a thrilling third act). However, the film does seem to drag a little, and doesn’t hold up as well on a second viewing. Nevertheless, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a perfectly entertaining follow up that may not stand to any of the Harry Potter films, but definitely deserves a lot of credit.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now!