The world was introduced to Harry Potter in 1997. A special boy with a special power who went to a special school of witchcraft and wizardry. Along with his friends, he must defeat the one who killed his parents when he was a baby. The phenomenon began to spread. Not to mention the films chronicling his seven-year journey as he tries to get rid of the evil Lord Voldemort. Now, J.K. Rowling has written her first screenplay taken place 70 years before our beloved hero goes to Hogwarts. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them brings back the magic while adding something fresh to the table.
Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is a magizoologist who has finished his global quest to research the many creatures in the magical world. He arrives in New York City with a suitcase filled with magnificent creatures. Since this is 1926, the city is having a conflict between the witches, wizards and the No-Maj population (the American idiom for “muggle”). Percival Graves (Colin Farrell), the head of The Magical Congress for the United States of America (MACUSA), is doing everything he can for the community.
Thinking this might be a quick stop, Newt gets into some risky situations including getting his suitcase misplaced and accidently letting some creatures loose. He joins forces with No-Maj and aspiring baker Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), witch Tina Goldstein (Katherine Wasterston) and her mind-reading sister Queenie (Alison Sudol) to save these creatures before leaving for Arizona.
As a huge Harry Potter fan, I am pleased how Rowling brought the wizarding world to the United States. The ninth entry might have not been good if it relied too much on hinting factors to the other films, or just adapting the textbook written by Rowling (in disguise of Newt). The part of Rowling’s genius as a writer is she makes Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in a world of its own. It’s okay to not see any of the Harry Potter films to get an idea on what’s going on.
Director David Yates feels right at home expanding the Harry Potter universe with James Newton Howard accompanying another fantastic score (with hints of John Williams’ theme sprinkled here and there). Shifting the magic with the history, the dark with the humorous. After being nominated for two Oscars (winning one for The Theory of Everything), Eddie Redmayne was born to be in the Harry Potter universe. In fact, he auditioned to play Tom Riddle in Chamber of Secrets before earning the part of Newt Scamander. Better late than never, I suppose.
Anyhow—Redmayne is certainly having a ball here as Scamander. He is compassionate about his studies. He never gets in the way with his past troubles. He has that professor charm. When he shows Jacob—Fogler, in a hysterical performance—the magical creatures for the first time before his very eyes, he is ecstatic. You know they are in for one wild ride.
Despite the first act being a little clunky, the introduction of the wizard culture to America is quite a treasure! Let’s see where the sequels will go from here.