Rowling Returns To The Wizarding World With "Fantastic Beasts"

By Scott Kurland
Film: Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterson, Dan Fogler, Ezra Miller, Carmen Ejogo, Alison Sudol, Samantha Morton, and Colin Farrell
Rated: PG-13
Director: David Yates

In 1997 Joanne Kathleen Rowling released her first book, you may have heard of it: “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.” A year later she released “Chamber of Secrets” and so on and so forth for the next ten years until the final book “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” was released in 2007. Harry Potter is one of the most iconic characters ever written and adapted to the silver screen. The films made Daniel Radcliffe a household name and established his career as an actor. The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter has become a worldwide phenomenon, and it cement's Rowling's status as a national treasure. Rowling is a kind-hearted, generous person whose philanthropy is known across the world. This week, she gives back in a big way with “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them.” Let’s find out if it’s any good shall we?

Before the days of Harry, Ron, and Hermione, there was Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne); a Magizoologist and a member of the Ministry of Magic. Scamander is a bit of an animal lover who collects magical creatures for the purpose of educating the Wizarding World. Newt's journey brings him to American shores and, unfortunately, a few of his creatures manage escape from his magical suitcase. In his effort to save his fantastic beasts, Newt reveals himself to a No-Maj (the american term for non-wizard) named Jacob (Dan Fogler). He is joined shortly thereafter by a former Auror named Tina (Katherine Waterson) and her sister Queenie (Alison Sudol). To make things worse, an invisible beast is killing No-Maj's throughout the city. A mysterious Auror named Percival Graves, (Colin Farrell) seems to be tracking it, but his motives remain unclear. Will Newt achieve success in protecting his beloved creatures? Or are these fantastic beasts really worth finding?

I was captivated by “Fantastic Beasts” from the start. With its setting and characters, the whole movie felt like an episode of "Doctor Who" if it took place on the set of the movie "Brooklyn". And perhaps its just the long overcoat and scarf, but I saw a great deal of The Doctor in Redmayne’s Scamander. His suitcase is practically a smaller version of the Tardis in that its "bigger on the inside". Like the Doctor, Scamander seems to get into scrapes that only he is smart enough to get out of. This is where Rowling’s screenplay really shines. She  knows how to write characters into these huge predicaments as well as how to help them escape without being to obvious or on-the-nose. This is Rowling's first screenplay. In the past, other screenwriters have adapted her books, but she’s never written a film…until now. Rowling loves this world and these characters and that love shines on the screen. It’s good to know Warner Brothers sees this and agrees, because she’s going to be writing more of these films or, at least, collaborating with other writers.

I already mentioned Redmayne as Scamander and his Doctor Who-ish likability, but this film is filled with many other great performances like Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Colin Farrell, and Carmen Ejogo. Who could have fathomed that the actress who played Coretta Scott King in “Selma” would be the President of the American Wizarding World. From shouting, “Still climbing that mountain" to “Expecto Patronum”, Ejogo is really showing diversity in her role choices. As much as I liked Redmayne in this film, I think the two best performances were Fogler and Sudol as Jacob and Queenie. The two have this very sweet and pure love story in the film and it’s so charming. For years, Fogler has struggled to find roles in films. He was on a hot streak for a while in the early 2000s, but this film proves that he needs to be doing more fantasy. He’s just so believable in this role as a hard working Joe caught up in a magical crisis. 

There are some faults in the film that can be easily overlooked. Ezra Miller needed more character development, as did Waterson as Tina. Farrell was great but I wanted more of him as well. I also would have loved to see flashbacks of Scamander searching for these magical animals in different countries. With that said, this is still a strong film to add to the series. I never wanted it to end and, when it ended, I wanted more. I shouldn’t be surprised by this because “Fantastic Beasts” is Directed by David Yates; the man who directed the final four “Harry Potter” films. Yates, like Rowling, knows this world and these Wizards and it’s why the film is so successful. 

“Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them” is a wonderful addition to the Harry Potter series. It cleverly balances the light side of the earlier Potter films with the darkness of “The Deathly Hallows." If you are going to see this film, see it on the biggest screen possible. I will say though that children under the age of eight should wait to see this film because it will terrify them. Yes, some of the creatures are cute, but there’s a lot of death and destruction that could be too intense for small children. Overall, this is a fantastic film to kick off Thanksgiving week and the upcoming holiday weekend.

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