First Word: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was directed by David Yates who also directed four other films in the Harry Potter franchise. Fantastic Beasts boasts talents like Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything, The Danish Girl) and Colin Farrell (The Lobster), along with an up and coming actor Ezra Miller (Suicide Squad, Justice League). We also get a snippet of a scene which shows Johnny Depp as Grindelwald. Obviously this movie had a lot of excitement behind it since the Harry Potter franchise was incredibly successful. With (the one and only) J.K. Rowling writing the script and (the respected director) David Yates guiding the movie, Fantastic Beasts had some large shoes to fill.
Synopsis: Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is a young wizard and writer who travels from England to New York. His ultimate destination is Arizona, but while making a pit stop in New York he runs into some trouble. In a laughable moment, Newt’s suitcase, which holds many magical creatures, is mistakenly swapped with a “No-Maj” (or Muggle depending on where you’re from). The creatures escape and now Newt must recover his lost friends. Along the way he befriends the No-Maj Jacob Kowalski who accidently ended up with the magical suitcase. With trouble already brewing in New York, Newt’s magical creatures catch the eye of the MACUSA (Magical Congress of the United States of America). They believe Newt is to blame for the trouble and a suspicious looking Percival Graves (Colin Farrell) will be watching his every move. Newt will uncover some secrets about Graves which builds to a climactic wizard fight in downtown New York. 7.5/10
Characterization: Fantastic Beasts has many characters included in its roster, but unfortunately the only one that you may care about is Jacob Kowalski, the No-Maj played by Dan Fogler. Kowalski’s character brings comedy and heart to this film where the rest of the cast are cold and somewhat dull. Eddie Redmayne plays a quirky wizard who mumbles throughout the film, and I struggled to connect with his character. Colin Farrell does a decent job of being an intimidating villain and Ezra Miller did impress me with his tortured and unbalanced display of emotion. However, at the end of movie I found myself impacted the most by Kowalski. At the same time, it was unsettling that the movie ends with Kowalski being wiped of his memory. 7/10
Cinematography: Fantastic Beasts is full of CGI. The scene that stands out the most is when Newt takes Kowalski down into his suitcase where an entire world of magical creatures live. It was fun to watch as they explored this hidden world with various terrains and the fantastic creatures that inhabit them. Overall this film is enjoyable to watch. Fantastic Beasts won an Oscar for Best Costume Design and the costumes also contribute to the overall look of the film. 7/10
Conclusion: Although Fantastic Beasts lacks Harry Potter and all the other well-known characters from the Wizarding World, it does open up a new chapter in this franchise that could be refreshing and exciting. I don’t believe that this first installment brought the magic that many were expecting. Fantastic Beasts feels like a set-up for many other sequels because that’s what it is. Hopefully the sequels will improve on the mistakes that this film made, but in the meantime I’ll continue to rewatch Harry, Ron, and Hermione.
Final Score: 7.1/10