Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them brings us back to the magical world of Harry Potter, but this time before Harry or his parents were even born. The year is 1926, and we follow Newt Scamander as he stops in New York during his excursion to find and document fantastic and magical creatures. During his brief stop, an encounter with some radicals and a ‘no-mag’ (America’s term for muggle) gives Newt a more adventurous stop then he was hoping for, but makes the best of it no less. Eddie Redmayne stars in the titular role with a script by J..K. Rowling herself, and David Yates returning to direct.
While I did enjoy the movie very much, I wasn’t looking forward to it as much as everyone else. I was not a fan of how David Yates handled the last few Harry Potter movies, so his involvement in this installment didn’t win me over in the beginning. After seeing Fantastic Beasts, I’ll be going back to rewatch all the Harry Potter films to reevaluate my statement. He did a fantastic job on this film. This might be his best-paced film yet. Tension builds very nicely, and I like how he subverted some movie cliches to help this movie feel modern while taking place almost a century ago.
J.K. Rowling wrote this script from scratch, and her talent continues to shine. Writing a novel and writing a screenplay are two different beasts that happen to be cousins. Knowing one doesn’t mean you know the other, and you can tell how she took the time to study the craft because this might be my favorite movie in the Harry Potter universe. I read the books growing up, but never became a big fan of the movies. They always felt incomplete. For the first time ever, I left the theater feeling like I got a complete movie in this universe. Maybe it’s because she wrote the screenplay for the first time, or most likely because there isn’t a ton of stuff to remove to make a certain run time (although I’d be shocked if the final script is close to the initial story she mapped out and there weren’t major segments that were removed at various points in production).
This doesn’t make the movie perfect though. There is a pretty big twist at the end that I think almost comes out of nowhere, is unnecessary, and handcuffs them on the sequel. Although, the twist would’ve probably worked better if a certain woman cast the spell instead. I would also like some more color to be added back into the movies. The muted colors WB is addicted too right now really needs to end, so I don’t hold this against the movie itself. It would’ve been cool to spend more time in Newt’s case too.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is an excellent reintroduction into the wizarding world of Harry Potter, and a great beginning to a new movie saga. J.K. gives us a solid screenplay, while David Yates gets outstanding performances out of the cast. I don’t even know where to begin to sing praises to them (Yeah, even Colin Farrell). I can’t wait to see this movie again and really looking forward to its sequel.