HARRY POTTER this is not
I’m not a “Pot Head.” Never have, never will. Never read the books either, but that’s not to say I wasn’t drawn to its mystical world of wizards and warlocks and every other thing within the realm of HARRY POTTER. The series not only introduced us to its fantastic cast, but allowed us to grow with them, and the ever-so-vibrant story-lines of strange, yet epic existences. Even though it took about four films for me to seriously get into it, J.K. Rowling’s creation managed to keep me and the rest of the world coming back. Finding each film more enticing than the next, I must admit I felt saddened when it ended. (Oh, it’s true. I kid you not!)
Back, only in different form, FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE THEY COME FROM introduces us to a new era in Rowling’s Wizarding World. Decades before Harry Potter and half a world away, FANTASTIC BEASTS opens in 1926 as Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) has just completed a global journey to find and document an extraordinary range of magical creatures. Arriving in NYC for a brief layover, he might have come and gone without incident had it not been for a No-Maj (aka Muggle) named Jacob (Dan Fogler), a misplaced magical case, and the escape of some of Newt’s fantastic beasts, which could cause trouble for both the wizarding and No-Maj worlds.
Off the bat, if there’s one thing this piece does is immediately brings back that joyful feeling the HARRY POTTER films generated. From terrific soundtrack, to its simultaneous exposition of reality, magic, and its gorgeous cinematography, FANTASTIC BEASTS undeniably feels stylistically in tune with the POTTER flicks. Fortunately, its American setting, timeline, and new characters feel fresh, solidifying director David Yates as undoubtedly competent to have helped make the film feel a bit less of a “carbon copy” than it could have.
Its uneven footing is displayed when trying to engage and/or relate with its characters. They’re fun, funny, and smooth to take in, but within characterization during its first act, Rowling’s new bundles of joy (not the cast) didn’t have the luxury of producing powerful feelings with descriptions to help link me (aka the audience) with the characters. They didn’t feel as vibrantly flourished as those in the POTTER world. Ultimately, leading to issues when keeping momentum on point… But in fairness, as the film plays along my gripe does wind up alleviated.
Once it gets going, it certainly finds and picks up its energy. Set pieces are thrilling, the cast is charming, and its scale of story winds up exciting – riding on two layouts: a magical joyride about capturing lost creatures, and a dark one about a potential war between wizards and muggles. And although intertwining both narratives may cause FANTASTIC BEASTS to suffer a bit of an “identity crises,” it’s still a lot of fun to be drawn back into Planet Rowling. Whether this has and/or lives up to POTTER Power remains to be seen. However, this world has potential for some exciting and excellent material with inevitable sequels.
Grade: A- | Genre: Adaptation, Sci-Fi, Adventure | Rated: PG-13 | Run Time: 2:12
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Ezra Miller, Alison Sudol, Dan Fogler, Colin Farrell
Directed by: David Yates