The story of Harry Potter's time at Hogwarts and battle with Voldemort ended with 2011's "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows - Part 2", and it was fair to think that it was the last time audiences would visit that magical world. That has now changed with the release of "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them," which looks to transport audiences back to that world and reveal more of the magical world Harry Potter would learn about as a boy. So does it recapture the magic or is it simply an illusion for audiences?
Turn back the clock
Rather than continue on from where Harry Potter's story ended, "Fantastic Beasts" chooses to go back to 1926, telling the story of magizoologist Newt Scamander as he comes to New York City with a briefcase full of magic creatures. After several escape, Newt must track them down and catch them before they harm anyone or anyone does harm to the creatures. He is joined by Jacob Kowalski, a No-Maj (American for Muggle), who mixed up cases with Newt, causing the creatures to escape, along with witches Tina and Queen Goldstein. They must also evade Percival Graves, a powerful Auror hunting them, and Mary Lou Barebone, an anti-witch fanatic.
At first glance, this seems like a lot to have to follow in the film. Granted, there are points it can feel a bit overwhelming, especially with all the world building being done in this film. Aside from the main story, it introduces audiences to the tense American wizarding community, which is hidden from No-Majs, and setting up Gellert Grindelwald, one of the most dangerous dark wizards ever, second only to Voldemort, as an ever-present danger in the background. That said, "Fantastic Beasts" does a good job of keeping a level of focus on the new heroes, having any storyline during the film connecting to the four in ways that make sense, despite some tropes associated with setting up sequels and being an "origin story."
A big reason the film stays focused, to a degree, is the cast. Eddie Redmayne fills the role of Newt, giving him a charm and oddness that makes it clear this is a character more comfortable around creatures than other people. Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, and Alison Sudol join Eddie as Tina, Jacob, and Queenie respectively, with each character managing to stand out from each other. The real standouts, though, are Colin Farrell and Ezra Miller. Both play subdued characters, with Farrell's Graves being confident and a bit manipulative and Miller's Credence being a damaged and scared young man that sees a father figure in Graves.
New world, old headmasters
While this is a brand new time and section of the wizarding world, the powers that be behind the camera are veterans of this world. J.K. Rowling, the mind behind this magical world, makes the jump from author to screenwriter, penning the story specifically for film. While her inexperience at screenwriting shows at times throughout the film, for the most part she is able to translate to the big screen better than other authors have in the past. While there is still room for improvement, she is clearly on the right track to a successful career as a screenwriter for the future films.
David Yates also returns to directorial duty in this world, being the hand that guided the final four "Harry Potter" films. This lends a sense of familiarity to the world that is needed when exploring Newt's time in New York, which is both familiar and new for him as well as the audience. This also brings back his notably darker tone from his respective "Potter" films which, at times, feels at odds with some of the more lighter spots of the film. That said, Yates still provides the mentioned familiarity needed to establish this world.
All in all, "Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them" accomplishes its mission in returning audiences to the wizarding world. It will be interesting to see where it goes from here, especially with Johnny Depp set to play Grindelwald, but we'll have to wait and see. #Movies #MovieReview