A fantastic film…well almost, but because it is the first of a series of five new scripts that JK Rowling has written, it is not altogether perfect. There are characters and mention of events which I am sure will be more fully explained in the subsequent movies.
Fantastic Beasts refers to a fictional textbook owned by Harry Potter and written by the magizoologist Newton Scamander (known as Newt), a character in the fictional Harry Potter series. He is an English professor who has written this study of magical creatures. The somewhat scatty Professor Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) stops off in New York in 1926 looking to add some rare species to his already bulging briefcase. By chance he becomes involved with a rather large baker Jacob Kowlaski (Dan Fogler), accidentally swopping cases with him. As Kowlaski is a non-Mag (the American word for Muggle – the term used in the Harry Potter books for a no Magic person), there are lots of difficulties. Newt is also followed by Porpentia (Katherine Waterston) who works for the US Ministry of magic. Newt and Kowlaski are introduced to Porpentia’s very glamorous sister, called Queenie (Alison Sudol).
The city is under siege from dark cloud-like whirlwinds which smash buildings. Colin Farrell as the wizard Percival Graves seems to have control over some of the other non-wizards including Samantha Morton’s anti-witch leader Mary Lou and her creepy-looking adopted son Credence (Ezra Miller). Newt gets involved with them all as do his creatures which, when they are out of his suitcase, all have individual characteristics – some are cute, some very furry and others large and a bit menacing. But fantastic, magical and very unusual is what JK Rowling does best and director David Yates is able to bring her stories to light. He has experience having worked on the HP movies. Yates and Rowling subtly bring into the film their views on unity – all working together whatever the species – and democracy.
Innocent-looking Eddie Redmayne is an absolutely delightful Newt: shy and naïve, and a person whose honesty and goodness shine through. My companion aged 12 thought he was the Harry Potter character (I think she missed seeing any children in the film). Dan Fogler is perfect as the bumbling, very amusing baker who just wants to open his own neighborhood bakery and is trying to find the money to do this. Perfectly groomed, with beautifully manicured nails, Alison Sudol as the telepathic Queenie is just the right contrast to Katherine Waterston’s Porpentia who is somewhat plain but full of strength and intelligence. All the smaller parts are right on the ball with Samantha Morton and Ezra Miller putting in particularly good performances.
The best of the lot? Why the fantastic beasts of course with Niffler and Ghoul and Hippogriff leading the pack. The scenes and cinematography are all great and members of the audience felt no need for 3D glasses, although I recommend seeing it on the largest screen you can find in your area.
I am often one of just a handful of people waiting until the very end of a film, but with this one lots stayed hoping for a post-credit trailer for the next in the series…there was nothing! You might need to sit through the cast credits, however, to see which very famous actor has a tiny cameo where he is unrecognisable! We now eagerly await the next in JK Rowling’s series.
Review by Carlie Newman