MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ is world-building magic worth discovering
This time, however, there’s a distinct lack of boys who lived.
Instead, audiences are treated to a journey through 1920s New York City through the eyes of introverted magical beast aficionado Newt Scamander, played by Eddie Redmayne and his crew of quirky characters.
Scamander himself is a character much unlike other protagonists we’ve seen in the Harry Potter universe, and different than most mainstream, big budget films.
He’s an introvert, set out with only concern for the various species living inside his magic suitcase.
He has trouble interacting with people, which is masterfully portrayed in Redmayne’s twitchy, socially awkward mannerisms.
He doesn’t make much eye contact with other humans, and we only see him really open up on screen when he’s interacting with his beasts.
Normally, this would make it tough for the audience to fully connect with him, to care about the stakes he’s facing.
However, Redmayne’s masterful performance on screen makes it work, by hook or by crook.
Along with Scamander is Tina, played by Katherine Waterston, a disgraced auror agent who’s seemingly on all her co-workers’ bad sides.
Even after she’s relegated to the medial hell of a desk job, she still pushes to redeem herself after Newt and his creatures cause a scene in a No-Maj bank.
By the way, can we pause for a minute? The Americans call people who don’t use magic non-magis instead of muggles.
OK, I guess.
British folks call the bathroom “the loo” and their money is called pounds. The point is, I guess America as a whole will have to take the L on this one. Anyways…
After the situation in the bank, Newt’s suitcase full of monsters gets swapped with aspiring baker and war veteran Jacob Kowalski’s (played by the normally annoying Dan Fogler) case full of pastries.
Kowalski is one of the few non-wizards in the film, and he shines in the role. He’s the audience avatar here, kind of just along for the ride, captured in the spectacle.
His chemistry with Tina’s sister Queenie, an attractive mind reader played by Alison Sudol, lights up the screen.
As a mind reader, she knows exactly who people are. She can see the real them in their most private thoughts and see their true intentions.
That makes the relationship between the two even more pure and brilliant to watch. She really does love him for who she is. The relationship between the two is awesome.
Aside from the main crew, however, this film is chock full of characters and rich in world-building.
The franchise is planting seeds for the future, hoping to harvest those storylines in later films.
Jon Voight plays a newspaper mogul Henry Shaw, Colin Farrell plays hard-boiled and shady investigator Percival Graves and Ron Perlman even contributes his voice as a not-so-reputable goblin named Gnarlack.
It’s surprisingly funny in a lot of instances as well, which breaks up some surprisingly dark moments as well.
This world is a layer cake of rich, developed ideas that come together perfectly.
I do have some issues with the climax of the film, but the slight weaknesses can’t take away from the full package. No spoilers here.
“Fantastic Beasts” lives up to its namesake, providing more moments of wonder than Newt Scamander can fit in his suitcase.