The Harry Potter series, despite ending five years ago, is still one of cinema’s most popular and influential franchises. The eight-film series received adoration from critics and audiences alike, as well as breaking the bank at the box office. With that being the case, its no surprise that author JK Rowling found a way to extend the franchise.
Taking place seventy years before Harry Potter’s great adventures, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them follows Newt Scamander, a keeper of beasts and former student at Hogwarts. In his journey to New York, Scamander meets some new friendly faces as he is involved in discovering a wicked magical force in the city.
While it may not reach the heights of the series most iconic entries, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them akins to its predecessors by delivering an entertaining ride full of magic and personality. Most importantly, it will give audiences a welcome return to the wizarding world.
An aspect that made the original series standout was the impressive performances of its young core cast. Fantastic Beasts thankfully delivers a similarly strong group of actors. Eddie Redmayne seemed born to play the part of Newt, having an awkward charm that makes the character come to life. Stealing many scenes alongside him is Dan Fogler, who is surprisingly great as Newt’s muggle friend. The duo have great chemistry together and often times make for some of the film’s highlight moments.
This is a cast that features a great deal of depth, with there being a numerous amount of great actors. Katherine Waterson and relative newcomer Alison Sudol are terrific as well, forming out their rag-tag team of sorts with radiant performances. Veteran actors like Colin Farrell, Ezra Miller, and Samantha Morton also add a great deal to their relatively smaller roles.
One quality that surprised me in particular was just how funny this movie was. Adapted to the screen by Rowling herself, the dialogue here is snappy and often times quite clever, with the film taking advantage of its quirky beast characters. Redmayne and Fogler in particular make for a great deal of the film’s laughs, with Fogler getting a lot of material out of his character’s new experience in the magical realm.
With such advancements in CGI, the action is clearly some of the most impressive this brand has featured. Director David Yates, who directed four film in the Potter series, brings his sure-hand as a director, capturing each grandiose action setpiece seamlessly. Set in 1930, Yates and company also do a great job of capturing the period, with the clothing and buildings look very much of the time.
Fantastic Beasts is thankfully a return to the Harry Potter series being fun again. As much as I enjoyed the series last few entries, their darker approach featured less of the awe that the original films did. This film, for the most part, embraces its lighter tone, which helped in making its two hour-plus running time fly by.
This film however stumbles in similar areas to a lot of first films of new franchises. In Rowling’s efforts to adapt her novel, she ultimately fails to make all the pieces come together cohesively. There is a lot going on here, with so many new characters and plot threads being introduced for the first time. In the end, it feels like there was just too much going on, often times getting in the way of some of the film’s most important aspects.
Also deteriorating from the experience is the film’s lackluster final third. This film succumbs the bombast that most blockbusters feature, favoring grandiose effects over essential character moments. This, as well as the fact the film had multiple endings, lessened the effect of the experience.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them brings back the magic and fun fans loved so much about the Harry Potter franchise in an exciting new package.