Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a welcome return to the wizarding world—an entirely new story that can stand apart from the Harry Potter series but still retain all of the charm, and yes, magic, of the original films. Newt Scamander, kicked out of Hogwarts over an animal-related misunderstanding, has spent years traveling the world learning about magical creatures, fighting to preserve their existence, and writing his eponymous book. He makes a stop in NYC to return one of these creatures to its natural habitat, which is when an escaped Niffler and the ensuing havoc it causes, brings Newt together with the other main characters, Tina, a disgraced former auror who has been demoted to paper pusher at the American Ministry of Magic, her sister Queenie, and Jacob, a no-maj as the Americans say, who wants to get off the assembly line and follow his dream to open his own bakery. Fantastic Beasts genuinely benefits from being purely a screenplay instead of an adaptation of a beloved book as the previous Harry Potter films were. There is a newfound sense of freedom and joy while watching this film as you are sucked back into the world of magic JK Rowling so expertly created without all of the baggage of attempting to be faithful to the book and noticing as an audience member, areas where the screenplay falls short. The downfall of this, however, is that you aren’t immediately as connected to the characters as you would be if you had already read a book featuring them. Newt is familiar to Harry Potter fans as the author of one of their textbooks, and the super fans have probably read Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them as part of the Hogwarts library series, but you go into the movie knowing very little about Newt and nothing at all about any of the other characters. That being said, the only characterization that suffers from this is Tina, as actress Katherine Waterston’s performance is not charming enough to make the character likeable, especially as she spends the majority of the movie getting Newt into trouble with the Ministry and is just as much an antagonist to Newt as the actual villain of the film. Eddie Redmayne is magnetic as Newt, a kind outsider without many, or any, friends who connects better with animals than people. Jacob (Dan Fogler) is the standout as a non-magical person being introduced to a magical world, and we enjoy his reactions to the magic taking place around him almost as much as the magic itself. Queenie (Alison Sudol) is charming as Jacob’s love interest, and while her role isn’t large, she brings some depth to the story with her ability to read people’s thoughts and therefore emotions. The true focus of the plot of this first movie (of a proposed five) are the animals, and rightly so. The niffler is delightfully cute and mischievous as his propensity for anything shiny leads him to cause chaos in banks and jewelry stores alike. The other animals are imaginative, beautifully portrayed, interesting, and attention grabbing. They were a joy to see brought to life onscreen. The more menacing parts of the plot revolve around a threat from a wholly new danger not previously introduced in the previous Potter films or books, which I found surprising and refreshing. There is also a side plot connected to the New Salem society, a group that speaks out against witchcraft, and there are some not quite yet fully realized threats of dark wizardry that do well to set the table for the future films. All in all, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is enjoyable and engaging, a fitting opening film to a new series that ably introduces the characters and lays the groundwork for the films to come. I am looking forward to following Newt’s story, and I am confident that JK Rowling has a lot more depth, danger, darkness, and character development in store for us in the future as the story broadens and becomes more epic in scale. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Shawn EH I did find the contrasts between the two sisters charming, in the sense of their teamwork and Queenie’s admission to Jake when he’s become “one of us.” Redmayne I thought played the whole thing with an overwhelming air of eccentricity, but it did fit the character, especially when we finally go into the case and see his world.