Stars: Eddie Redmayne, Colin Farrell, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Samantha Morton, Carmen Ejogo, Faith Wood-Blagrove.
Director: David Yates
Screenplay: J.K. Rowling
Welcome back to the Wizarding world everyone! Though it is not the best outing we could have expected it was still a thrill to be thrust back into J.K. Rowling's universe. Set in 1926 New York Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016) takes on a darker tone than that of the earlier Harry Potter films. Not only is it dark, but it is also far more adult which is a pretty clever way to make these films feel different to its predecessor.
Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) arrives in NYC at a very unfortunate time. The American Wizarding world seems to work much differently than the one he came from, instead of living with Muggles (even if magic is still somehow hidden from us non magic folk) the Yanks have gone underground and no interaction with the no-majs is allowed. Instead of Newt just getting on with what he intended to do in the states he is thrown into the middle of a crisis. A crisis that the MCUSA (Magical Congress of the United States) are having trouble understanding and so blame Newt's beasts that he keeps in his suitcase and as it happens a few escaped.
Newt must clear the name of his Beasts by tracking them down with fellow witch Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterson), her sister Queenie (Alison Sudol), and no-maj New Yorker Jacob Kowalski (Dan Folger). While he tracks them down Percival Graves (Colin Farrell) is on the hunt for an Obscurus; a dark force of magic that is breaking out within Manhattan.
Watching magic happen within 1920s New York is so much fun. The film really captures the feeling of that time that the magic within it becomes quite real. Fantastic Beasts is the film that Harry Potter is not; it grounds the reality of magic in the real world. To be fair the whole Harry Potter series is about the Wizarding World, not our world but this is the first time that that really hit me. Because the British Witches and Wizards live within the Muggle world and they have found a way for the muggles not to notice their magic it always feels like it is jus happening before us and we just never notice. However in America you get the sense of secrecy, or rather the fear of being found out. It is a very intriguing contrast.
This film while a whole lot of fun does have its issues. It really comes down to it trying to tell too many stories in one movie. Is this movie about Newt and his Beasts, is it about the no-maj's and the MCUSA preparing for war with each other, or is it about Percival tracking down the Obscurus? It is about all of these things but with no one real protagonist it is hard to keep track and know which one to focus on. Also there are many shots that could have been more succinct, it feels as though they linger just that little too long.
This is the first film of five but what I gather from reading is that this film only introduces us to this period world and the rest will be quite different to the first and that is pretty exciting.