As the first film to be released from JK Rowling’s magical world since 2011’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II, this film had a standard to live up to higher than Hermione Granger’s OWL scores. This film follows Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), an eccentric magical creature extraordinaire who appears in 1926 New York City with a case full of monsters. But when these creatures are unexpectedly released, he must join forces with Porpentine Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), a high-strung MACUSA employee who is desperate to return to her old post, Queenie (Fine Frenzy) her sister, and Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) a no-maj who wants to open his own bakery, but lacks the funds. Together they travel through New York, struggling to retrieve Newt’s missing creatures, all the while something more sinister lurks just below the surface.
Director David Yates returns to the wizarding world, adding Fantastic Beasts to his resume, which already holds 4 of the 8 Harry Potter films. Yates includes shots, composition, and color scheme that have become his trademark in the directorial world. Along with this approach, he brings in the character focus, pastel contrast, and shot balance that creates an overall whimsical feel to the film, and will never fail to catch the eye of anyone watching.
While this film features David Yates’ return behind the camera, it is writer JK Rowling’s first time writing directly for the screen. Rowling is able to portray the story in a strong, cohesive way, all the while incorporating a good balance of action, comedy, romance, and suspense, that makes it enticing to watch, and leaves you wanting more. She features perfectly quirky characters that mix together in storybook fashion, creating a seamless flow to the plot, translating well with the actors. At the helm of this film we see Eddie Redmayne, who stars in what can be shockingly considered one of his more tame roles, in comparison to a trans-gender Danish artist in 1931, a young French revolutionary, and theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking. Redmayne captures the peculiarity and abnormality of the wizarding world in a new way that explores and exhibits a character that we have not seen before. Stellar line delivery and an almost shy side of the character, as well as the leading Hufflepuff we all needed, he extends the realm in a definite way. Katherine Waterston makes a splash with her performance in this film as Tina. Despite some basic delivery, she helps create multiple sides and stories to an otherwise fairly unexplored character. The mystery she holds behind her makes for a more intriguing character, and translates well when her story does emerge. When these emotions do roll over, she gives a performance that brought me to the brink of tears. While Dan Fogler is typically seen on the silver screen in more slapstick-than-plot movies, he brings a raw sense of comedy and charm to this film. As Jacob, an almost prototypical New Yorker from the accent to the American Dream, Fogler has awesome comedic timing and perfectly overplayed reactions that make him an eye catching character and a joy to watch.
This film helps to explore parts of JK Rowling’s universe that we had not seen before. It takes place in the United States and not the UK, it explores the morals, government, and focus of a different place and a different time. While some of these are used for historical purposes, it connects to the real world in blatant and obvious ways, and explicitly shows the difference in thought process and values of people from different backgrounds and stories.
Fantastic Beasts was released on November 18th, 2016, rolling in a cool $75 million on its first weekend, a number that fell flat to Warner Bros.’s expected projections, chump change compared to the previous films of the Harry Potter franchise. The film held the #1 spot on the charts for 2 days, before being bumped down by Disney’s Moana. Despite this performance, the franchise will continue, with a promised 4 more movies. Fantastic Beasts was overall an experiment that I believe went very well for everyone involved. It features strong directing, acting, and writing, and is visually stunning in its scenery and effects. I thoroughly enjoyed it and look forward to the next 4 films in the series.