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  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Review

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    The Harry Potter Universe is one that I was very sad to leave behind. The books are a defining moment on my pathway to becoming a writer. J.K. Rowlings is still an inspiration to me - but this is not

    It is an expansion of the world that J.K. Rowling has created, many years before Harry, his parents, and even Voldemort existed. Instead, the audience is treated to some wonderful additions to an already rich lore in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The movie is a blend of fresh ideas mixed with the familiar, allowing newcomers and fans to immerse themselves in a magical world that I've definitely missed. With an excellent cast and an invigorating soundtrack, it is a welcome return to the Wizarding World.

     

    Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie Poster

    Welcome to the United States of America

    Our movie begins in 1926 New York City as wizard, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) makes his way through customs. The wizard world is much different in America, and it becomes abundantly clear that Newt is carrying a number of things he shouldn't. Unfortunately for him, he has a run in with a No-Maj, or muggle to the English Wizards, by the name of Jacob Kowalski. Shenanigans ensue after the two inadvertently switch cases and some of Newt's magical creatures escape.

     

    Unfortunately for Mr. Kowalski and Newt, this is the worst time for it. It seems that magical beasts are supposedly destroying the No-Maj's world causing a resurgence in witch hunters and tightened security by the Magical Congress of the USA (MACUSA.) Little do they all know, a much more sinister plot is underway and not everything is as it seems. Together with the help of a demoted Auror, Tina Goldstein, and her sister Queenie, Newt and Jacob must rescue the escaped animals before the MACUSA or other No-Majs find them.

     

    No-Maj Jacob and Newt Scamander

    Where to Find Them

    Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them had a difficult job. It had to be a movie that felt like the Harry Potter series without being it. There had to be a balance between both worlds and the movie does a great job. The film draws it's audience in with the fantastic 1920s look with a magical twist. The fantasy world melds nicely with the world as we know it.  Another exciting addition to the Potter Universe is a look into American Wizardy. Up until now, there wasn't too much information, but what the movie displays it was very refreshing take on something fans know and love.

     

    Our hero is not a young boy learning magic and facing off against a dark lord. Newt Scamander is already an accomplished wizard and the cast surrounding him is much different than what we've seen. The subject matter and the characters manage to remain separate but familiar at the same time. The plot pacing was slow at points, but that allowed for a good foundation for the series to follow.

     

    Unlike other 'origin' films, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them does little to explain the characters and their motivations. The audience gets a feel for the characters on their own merit - and the actors bring them to life. Also, though the film is lovely to look at, it doesn't rely on special effects for a good story; they enhance it.   Frankly, the only other complaint I have with the film has to be with the 'main' villain, but even then, it's something the film builds on. It's clever, there are a few interesting twists, and it is a very enjoyable movie.

     

    Newt and Tina

     

     

    Newt, Jacob and magical creature

    Fantastic Actors and Magical Music

    One of the things that really sold me on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was Eddie Redmayne's portrayal of Newt Scamander. His character was just as charmingly awkward as it needed to be, and his love for the magical beasts really brought another level to the movie. His co-actor, Dan Folger, is very like-able as the No-Maj who accidentally fell into this crazy wizarding mess. Not to be out done, our leading lady Katherine Waterson pulls off the down-on-her-luck, former auror, Tina, while Alison Sudol displays a perfect example of a 1920s woman with the gift of Legilimency. Another stand-out is Colin Farrel's Percival Graves. It's hard to tell which side he's on and ultimately, it makes for good scene tension. The only casting choice I'm unsure about is Johnny Depp - but he has such limited screen time, it's uncertain how well he will fill out his role.

     

    The score for the film was composed by James Newton Howard. He did a marvelous job incorporating excerpts from earlier films and married it with original compositions to create something wonderful. The music captures the 1920s feel with a charmingly mystical touch, matching each scene perfectly.  When all of these elements combine, it makes for a truly enchanting movie.

     

    Tree Creature

    Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: Final Thoughts

    Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a magical story that manages to distance itself from it's roots while paying homage to it. It's a wonderful display of an intriguing time period enhanced by a mythical touch. With loveable characters, complementary special effects, and an engrossing soundtrack, it is a must-see. Also, if you plan to see it in 3D, it looks pretty neat. What about you? Do you want to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them? What do you love about the Harry Potter series?  What's your patronus? -- sorry, too personal? Let me know in the comments below.

     

    Fantastic Beasts Poster

     

     



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