All of us know that person. The person who was born to be part of something. The person whom a cause is not a cause but a dedication of their life. Their life’s work and passion. When you interact with someone like this, you cannot help but be drawn to the intensity of their feelings about the subject. Such a person in Newt Scamander. Newt is determined to make the wizarding world see it’s wrongs when dealing with magical creatures. Even if the creatures cause a bit of chaos along the way.
Newt is a magical zoologist and adventurer. Based on a glossary of creatures book that was created by J.K Rowling to accompany the Harry Potter book series, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a return to the wonderful, wondrous, world of Harry Potter. This movie is a prequel and while Albus Dumbledore is mentioned in the movie, most of the characters are new to the series.
Eddie Redmayne is pitch perfect as Newt Scamander. He plays the role with a wide eyed naivete and determination to do what is right. His magical suitcase, one of the highlights of the film, holds numerous magical creatures and shortly after arriving in New York, the suitcase gets inadvertently switched out with a suitcase of a would be baker, “no mag” Jacob Kowalski. Kowalski is played artfully by Dan Fogler, who connects with Newt and comes along on his adventures. A “No mag” is the US equivalent of muggle in wizarding Britain. A regular person with no magic capability. During Jacob’s day, some creatures escape, and the work to find them and put them all back in the suitcase begins!
Rounding out the circle of friends is an Auror on suspension, Porpentina Goldstein (Katherine Waterson) and her Legillimens sister, Queenie (Alison Sudol). For the 3 people who never saw or read Harry Potter in the world, a Legillimens is a mind reader. Jacob and Queenie strike up a sweet romance and this group of four, Newt, Jacob, Porpetina, and Queenie form the central core of the film.
At the same time as Newt’s creatures are causing havoc, a dark force is killing people around New York. And to add further complications, there is a dark wizard loose and the Magical Congress of the USA, MACUSA for short, has outlawed possession of all magical creatures and creates and enforces strict laws about the separation of the magical and non-magical worlds.
The film’s director, David Yates, is a veteran Harry Potter filmmaker. He brings the same stylish, fun, and whimiscal nature to this film. The scenes in the speakeasy are so good, that you really appreciate the work Yates has done to bring the film to life. He sets a great tone and look to the movie, seamlessly moving back and forth from the magical and non-magical worlds.
The film does assume that you have a working knowledge of how wizarding life works, from spells to appearing and reappearing from spot to spot (Known as apparating and disapparating to you no-mags and muggles). And the darkness of the film’s main villain, may be a bit too intense for those younger than 7 or 8.
Overall a wonder of a film and an absolute delight to know that this is the first of five films in a new series.
A Hitting a Mark recommendation – 3.5 stars.