Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them brings a whole new wizarding world to the big screen
Demiguises, erumpents and nifflers are just some of the fantastic creatures that have slipped out of Newt Scamander’s (Eddie Redmayne) magical suitcase, causing havoc in 1926 New York City in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
The film, adapted from J.K. Rowling’s book of the same title, is directed by David Yates and stars Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Colin Farrell and Dan Fogler. Written by Rowling, it has the same familiar feel the Harry Potter series offered. This familiarity makes it easier for the audience to relate to the film, although this era of the wizarding world is much darker.
Newt Scamander is a magizoologist studying all manner of magical beasts and creatures, cataloguing them for a book he’s writing. After disembarking in New York City, a mix-up between suitcases leads to a few of his creatures roaming free in a city rocked by anti-wizard sentiment. Newt, no-maj (American term for muggle) Jacob Kowalski (Fogler) and disgraced auror Tina (Waterston) team up and attempt to round up the magical creatures. Although they aren’t dangerous per se, these creatures can be annoying. One of Newt’s nifflers, a mole-sized creature attracted to objects that shine and sparkle such as coins and gems, gets into trouble ransacking a jewelry store and storing its contents in its marsupial-like pouch.
Things get more complicated when Newt discovers an obscurus is on the loose. This dark magical entity, taking the shape of a roiling black cloud, is a creation that comes about when a magical child tries to suppress their powers for fear of discovery by the non-magical community. While Newt wishes to find the child to save them from themself, other forces wish to use the obscurus for their own agendas.
The world we are introduced to in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a fractured one. The beginning sequence emphasizes this: headline after headline warning of humans suspicious of magical activity, calling for a second Salem witch-hunt in Manhattan. At the same time, there is fear of a magical war being sparked by Grindelwald, a powerful wizard tired of hiding from no-majs. Divisions exist between no-majs and wizards and between wizards themselves. Newt’s journey to document magical creatures brings him to the epicenter of these tensions, and he becomes entangled in an effort to prevent an all-out war.
Rowling’s incredible imagination is once again brought to life on the big screen. The creatures she’s whipped up are funny and troublesome, dangerous and sneaky. For a film that needed to introduce a whole other subsection of a hidden world, the pace is quite good, albeit a little information-heavy at times. It might have been worthwhile to take some more time to develop Newt’s character, especially seeing as how Fantastic Beasts is set to be a five-part series. Newt is a funny character who has trouble interacting with humans. Instead, he finds refuge in his suitcase, which contains a whole ecosystem of creatures, beasts and magical things.
Fantastic Beasts is now in theaters.
4.5 stars out of 5.