Movie Review: ‘FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM’ welcomes fans back to wizarding world


Preston Barta // Editor

Rated PG-13, 133 min.
Director: David Yates
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Alison SudolDan FoglerColin FarrellEzra MillerSamantha MortonCarmen Ejogo and Jon Voight

There’s no doubt the HARRY POTTER series has instilled magic into the lives of many. There’s a cozy and inviting place it takes you to. It provides a sense of escapism that is rare for movies to offer these days, where one can leave their worries outside the door, live in the moment and cherish what unfolds on screen.

Fortunately enough, the pre-Potter spinoff series, FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM, continues to embrace the same spirit and capture real-world issues through its entertaining fantasy.

In FANTASTIC BEASTS, the politics of the wizarding world come more into play. Don’t fret, however, as this more-talk-and-less-action tale doesn’t give you a case of the ZZZs like the politically driven Star Wars prequels. There’s something more tangible and rewarding to this new series that’s quite relevant to the times we live in. (Parents, be cautious of taking the little ones.)

We begin with Eddie Redmayne’s eccentric Newt Scamander, a magical creature zoologist who was expelled from Hogwarts, despite an endorsement from headmaster Albus Dumbledore himself. After arriving in 1926 New York for personal business and research for his book, Newt finds himself wrapped up in a tangled plot, involving loose critters from his own briefcase, witch hunts and an immense threat to the magical community.

Eddie Redmayne and Katherine Waterston give new adventures to get lost in. Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Eddie Redmayne and Katherine Waterston give new adventures to get lost in. Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Like most franchise-starting vehicles, FANTASTIC BEASTS may try to accomplish too much in its two-hour run time. To be fair, on the other hand, it has many new characters to introduce, more mythology to establish and groundwork to lay down for the supposed next four installments.

J.K. Rowling, who wrote the screenplay for the first time in her career, reveals more of the magical world by taking us outside the confines of Hogwarts.

In America, everything is — as Newt puts it — “backward.” Magical discrimination prevails and the specifics about how these stateside communities function make for a revitalizing experience.

Filmmaker David Yates has a real handle on Rowling’s material, as he proved directing the last four POTTER films. His understanding and way in which he gives life to Rowling’s words pull viewers into his beautiful scenery and supply each actor (especially a scene-stealing Dan Fogler as a non-magical citizen caught in the mix) a rich canvas to run about and create magic.

Warts and all, FANTASTIC BEASTS warmly welcomes viewers back to its wonderful wizarding world and sets up much to look forward to in the years to come.

Grade: B

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM opens nationwide on Friday (11/18), with sneak peek showings tonight, starting at 7 p.m.

About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.