The Potter Magic Continues in “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”
Welcome back to the world of witchcraft and wizardry!
The opening theme alone was enough to stir my heart feels. Everything was nostalgic – the wand tricks, the spells, the (living) photographs, the jargon, everything. Slipping back into this magical world was not only exciting, but practically effortless. Considering I was never the biggest Harry Potter fan, I take that as a testament to just how deeply-seated HP is in our generation’s culture.
At this point, I wouldn’t even be surprised if there were kids out there whose definitive wizard isn’t Camelot’s Merlin but Harry Potter. Seven books, eight movies, one stage play, and a plethora or other supplementary works have already spanned an unprecedented nineteen years and is showing no signs of slowing down, especially with this week’s release of “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”. But is the existence of this new set of HP movies really necessary? Or is this just another studio cash grab?
The answer is a resounding “OH HELL YEAH IT DEFINITELY NEEDS TO EXIST!”
19 years and counting – fans will continue to grow alongside the unstoppable HP franchise
As familiar as everything was, the movie was discernibly a beast (sorry) of its own. It has new loveable characters, set on a different country and era, and feels almost as if it has its own separate lore. While it draws on the Potterverse mythology, it simultaneously takes on a fresh perspective, showing us a part of their universe we’ve yet to experience. As if the Harry Potter mythology wasn’t rich enough already, Fantastic Beasts expands it even more, and we learn just how much during a certain scene involving Newt’s briefcase a quarter-way through the film (one that’s truly magical and guaranteed to make you smile involuntarily, especially if viewed on IMAX).
The period and setting already aesthetically sets itself apart from Harry Potter
J.K. Rowling delivers a fresh new story that’s half comic misadventure and half political/mystery narrative and filled with colorful creatures, spirited action beats, sweet character interactions and youthful vigor. The tale unfolds at a comfortable and natural pace and without the burden of cramming too much detail in (a problem which has plagued past HP films based on thousand-page novels). The film’s heavier stakes were a little slow to start but at some point you just let it go and enjoy all the magic and mayhem happening to Newt. Still, not bad for Rowling’s screenwriting debut.
Meet Pickett, one of the many new, adorable creatures the film introduces
David Yates, who directed four out of the eight Harry Potter films and is already slated to helm all five Fantastic Beasts movies, inversely, is no stranger to the fantasy film craft. Whatever bizarre and peculiar creation emerges from Rowling’s hyper creative mind is meticulously brought to vibrant life with Yates’ jaw-dropping, larger than life visuals.
If I had one gripe with the film, it would be Eddie Redmayne’s inaudibly soft and muffled speech. I appreciate that he was trying to capture Newt Scamander’s offbeat and awkward quality, but man was it hard to understand him at times. Good thing what he lacked in dialogue, he made up for with his committed physicality.
Newt Scamander may give Harry a run for his money yet
Other than that, I have nothing but praises for the cast. Both Redmayne and Collin Farrell’s innate charisma, physicality and screen presence were a joy to behold. Ezra Miller’s Credence is miles from the characters I’ve seen him play before. Unhinged, perpetually intense, and profoundly fragile, Miller’s range continues to impress.
Colin Farrell makes waving a short stick around sexy
But the show stealer was Dan Fogler’s Jacob Kowalski. He brought heart and humor and almost single-handedly made all dialogue enjoyable. His authentic chemistry with both Redmayne and Alison Sudol’s Queenie, made for some great laughs and genuinely poignant moments. And in case you were wondering where you’ve seen him from, he’s the guy in Balls Of Fury. Yep. That’s him.
The surprising secret ingredient to Fantastic Beasts’ appeal – Dan Fogler and his chemistry with the rest of the cast
Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them is undeniably a worthy addition to the Potter series and this new franchise is off to a strong start. Newt Scamander and his friends delivered a fun new adventure underscored by captivating lore and dazzling visual spectacles. Armed with refreshing and limitlessly imaginative writing, the bright, vivid colors and textures we’ve come to expect from its time-tested director, and a formidable cast, I’m excited to see them take on the dozens of avenues this new world could still explore. The “Harry Potter” magic radiates. And clearly, I’ve fallen hard under its spell again.
I wonder though, if Newt will continue to be the new franchise’s central character once Dumbledore arrives in the scene. I guess only time will tell.