Film Review: ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’: A marvelous new look into the wizarding world of Harry Potter

Lauren Sieberg, Staff Writer

Ever since “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” was released in 2010, new and old fans of the Potter franchise have yearned for another film to bring them back to the wonderful wizarding world.

On Nov. 18, these fans began gathering by various movie theatres all across the world to discover the newest addition to the magical universe. In “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” director David Yates’ film adaptation amazes audiences of all ages with adorable creatures, remarkable details, and spectacular actors.

The film pulls the audience back in time to the cobblestone avenues of 1920s New York City, with streets upon streets lined with stately brick buildings, looming lampposts, and old-fashioned automobiles. Women walk around the city wearing short, shapeless shift dresses, thick overcoats, and cloche hats, while men dress in neat suits, vests, and trench coats.

A young and lighthearted British wizard named Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) comes to the city by boat, carrying a curious suitcase. While traveling through the city, he quickly learns of the New Salem Philanthropic Society, a small but strong organization lead by a woman bent on exposing and eradicating the wizarding world. As he listens to her questions and claims, a niffler – an adorable magical creature attracted to shiny, valuable items – escapes from Newt’s luggage, heading straight towards the bank.

Newt calmly follows suit, and meets up with an amusing no-maj (Americans that can’t use magic) named Jacob Kowalski (Dan Folger), a man looking for a loan to start his own bakery. During his successful attempt to catch the niffler, Newt not only apparates (a form of teleportation) Jacob around the area, but he also accidentally switches suitcases with him without either man noticing. As Newt obliviously carries a piece of luggage filled with an assortment of sweets, Jacob unknowingly lugs around a suitcase containing countless magical creatures.

Shortly after, Newt is apprehended by Porpentina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), a stern but good-natured witch and former employee for the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA). After arresting him and taking him to their main headquarters, she is met with dismay at the understanding that apprehending an unregistered wizard like Newt won’t get her her job back. While there, they realize that the suitcases were swapped back at the bank.

Meanwhile, trouble is certainly brewing on the other side of town. Newt’s suitcase bursts open at Jacob’s home, releasing several illegal beasts into America. When Newt and Porpentina arrive on the scene, they decide to bring Jacob and the suitcase to her apartment to plan their next move. The three add Porpentina’s sweet and attractive younger sister – and accomplished legilimens, or mind-reader – Queenie (Alison Sudol) to the mix. Then, the quartet begins their arduous adventure to recapture the escaped creatures, a task that proves much harder than it seems.

Unfortunately, tragedy involving a rare, dangerous magical force strikes the no-maj world for the second consecutive time, straining the delicate balance and risking complete exposure of the magical community. Numerous forces work against the group’s efforts to maintain the fragile peace; Percival Graves (Colin Farrell), a MACUSA official as solemn as his name insinuates, works with a dejected teenager known as Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller) in search for the key to their hazardous aspirations. His efforts threaten the success of Newt and his new friends, and put both worlds at a terrible risk.

The beasts of the film never fall short of how “fantastic” the title implies they are, and every one manages to capture audience members’ hearts the moment they come onto the screen. Each creature, ranging from gigantic to small, feathered to furred, and wily to entirely harmless, is simply captivating and stunningly creative. Even some of the strangest beasts, like the demiguise, occamy, and erumpent, cause a great deal of laughter and a chorus of “aww’’s in the audience due to their peculiarities. Most of these beasts remind the audience of crosses between real-life creatures; the niffler bears a resemblance to moles and duck-billed platypus, and Newt’s bowtruckle Pickett looks quite a bit like a mix between a praying mantis and a stick bug. By incorporating these likenesses, audience members can consider these beasts like any other tangible, real animal.

While these creatures do seem to be the stars of the film in multiple scenes, the actual actors in the film are just as incredible. Numerous actors, especially Eddie Redmayne, express a large range of emotions throughout the film that seem beyond genuine. Audience members can laugh at Newt’s charming, humorous experiences with his creatures and newfound friends, relate to Jacob’s shocked reactions regarding the wizarding world, and cry during some of the more melancholy moments. From his introduction, Eddie’s rendition of Newt’s lovable character is beyond adorable, allowing for the audience to become genuinely attached to his sweet disposition.

Another magnificent trait carried on from other “Harry Potter” films is the myriad of details in each scene. The movie doesn’t rely on the audience noticing numerous obscure details for the plot to make sense. Instead, it uses these details to improve the overall believability of even the strangest magical encounters. A wonderful example of this is when Newt pulls Jacob through his suitcase into his enchanting home for various magical creatures, proving that it’s much bigger on the inside. Although there are innumerable details from this experience that may be overlooked by the audience, the scene is just as phenomenal regardless of how many elements are noticed. Including these particularities simply adds to the magic of it all, making audience members feel as though they are actually exploring the assorted animal habitats with Newt and Jacob.

Even those who know nothing about the “Harry Potter” franchise will definitely not be disappointed with this marvelous film. Thanks to magnificent actors and characters, lovable beasts, and an impressive array of minute details, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” will stupefy any audience member into falling in love with this beautifully bewitching motion-picture.

Grade: A
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”
Rated: PG-13
Length: 133 minutes
Genre: Fantasy/Action
Directed by: David Yates
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Folger, Alison Sudol, Colin Farrell