In some senses, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a gamble from Warner Bros, J.K. Rowling and company as they step slightly away from one enormous franchise and towards another. But, in truth, that can be positively pushed aside because when there’s already such a rich, vivid world surely it can only continue to impress and this new Wizarding World really does add more adventure, depth and excitement.
Fantastic Beasts begins by heading back to 1926 to join Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), who has just travelled globally to find and document an extraordinary array of magical creatures. Arriving in New York, he’s there to visit and explore and may have easily left is it not for an incident with a No-Maj (the American for a Muggle) named Jacob Kowalski (played by the excellent Dan Fogler), a misplaced magical case, and then the escape of some of Newt’s fantastic beasts…
When you know a fictional world so well, initially it can be difficult to immersive yourself because, much like I found myself doing in Rogue One, you look for familiarity. But what instantly pulled me into Fantastic Beasts was the sheer size of the world that’s created, there’s so much going on from the get-go (in every respect) and so, with that in mind, you have to throw yourself in and immediately feel it demands a second viewing, even at the beginning.
Redmayne plays Newt as a loner and a man very much comfortable being so. He’s on an individual quest and without the need for help but it’s clear over the course of events that he needs some, and eventually will take it on board with open arms. He’s definitely not offensive in his personality, just purposefully separated and on his own escapades. Redmayne is great in the role and plays it with a dash of Hugh Grant and a sprinkling of a certain Doctor Who, with all his brilliant bizarre and unexpected nature. Quirky and occasionally uncomfortable when it comes to his charming relationship with Katherine Waterston’s Tina, their chemistry sparks and lingers on-screen quite effortlessly with both actors giving fine performances.
Beyond the fantasy, there’s undoubtedly a political edge and it’s not really subtle, unless you’re unware of a society that’s trying to be divided outside of some Daily Mail-like bubble, and this is another reason why I enjoy Rowling’s work. I love it for the clear indication to an ‘us and them’ world, which highlights and supports anyone being discriminated against and the truth is this element brings a vitally important power to proceedings.
Visually, Fantastic Beasts will also blow you away, from all the creatures (you’ll find it hard not to love the cheeky nature of Niffler – the shiny-goods-stealing-mole), through to the worlds within worlds, the comic value, and even the destruction of both characters and the city. That’s not all though because the invention also comes to the visual representation of the dark forces that are at play and it’s utterly fascinating. The latter third builds deftly and really kicks off with an intense finale that’s right up there with the huge conclusion of the Deathly Hallows, whereas it both haunts and excites in equal measure.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a fantastical addition to the Wizarding World of J.K. Rowling and here they’ve created a delightful world that’s wonderfully conceived and full of unexpected surprises.