Skip to main content

Cottonwood Heights Journal

Dan's Review: Rowling's "Fantastic Beasts" a welcome reentry into the magical world

Nov 18, 2016 01:43AM ● By Dan Metcalf

Eddie Redmayne in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - © 2016 - Warner Bros.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Warner Bros.)

Rated PG-13 for some fantasy action violence.

Starring Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Colin Farrell, Carmen Ejogo, Samantha Morton, Ezra Miller, Ron Perlman, Jon Voight, Josh Cowdery, Ronan Raftery, Johnny Depp, Jenn Murray, Sean Cronin, Gemma Chan, Zoë Kravitz.

Written by J.K. Rowling.

Directed by David Yates.


J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novel and film series ended more than five years ago, as one of the most successful franchises in literary and cinematic history. Rowling vowed that it would be the last we’d ever see of Harry, Hermione and Ron, but she just couldn’t the magical world alone, expanding into material associated with her signature character. Her latest endeavor is Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a film-only prequel to Harry Potter set in the 1920s. The setting is centered on the circumstances to the writings of Newt Scamander, author to one of the textbooks used by Harry Potter and his classmates years into the future.

Eddie Redmayne plays Scamander, a young man with a gift for understanding magical creatures like dragons, bowtruckles (small stick-like beings), nifflers (a hedgehog of sorts that collects gold, jewels and coins) and several other enchanted beasts. After traveling to New York City, one of the creatures he carries in a magical suitcase escapes, leading him to encounter a “no-maj” (the Amercan term for “muggle”) named Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) inside a bank. He also meets Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), a demoted “auror” (a federal agent of magic) who keeps track of magical violations despite her ouster from the investigative unit of the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA), the governing body of wizardry in the U.S. Tina tries to warn MACUSA President Seraphina Picquery (Carmen Ejogo) and her chief auror Percival Graves (Colin Farrell) about Scamander’s creatures, but the American brain trust refuses to listen. During the mix-up at the bank Kowalski mistakenly swaps his own suitcase with Scamander’s and is attacked by some of the creatures at his apartment. Tina and Newt rescue him and take him back to her apartment that she shares with her beautiful sister Queenie (Alison Sudol), a witch with acute powers of legilimancy (mind-reading). Kowalski is immediately enamored with Queenie, and quickly learns the truth about the wizarding world. Meanwhile a sinister cult leader (Samantha Morton) uses orphaned children to spread warning about witches, wizards and magical creatures throughout the city. One of her “children” is Credence (Ezra Miller), a troubled young man that she physically abuses.

As Scamander, Tina, Kowalski and Queenie try to capture the escaped creatures, they discover a sinister plot involving a darker force.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a wonderful re-entry into Rowling’s magical world. Since the story is based on Rowling’s reproduction of her fictional textbook (not a narrative novel), the film has a unique originality to it, leaving no one with a good excuse to claim “the book was better.” The movie introduces audiences to a whole new group of likeable characters, not the least of which is Redmayne’s portrayal of Scamander. His boyish charm and honest performance as a wizard with empathy for all creatures gives the movie a high sense of morality. The other performances are equally brilliant, including Waterston’s excellent portrayal of a strong witch who is willing to risk herself to save vulnerable magical beings and non-magic humans alike. Dan Fogler is the most likeable of all the cast, providing a “muggle” perspective into Rowling’s world of magic.

The special effects of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Is exceptional, effectively transporting the audience to 1920s New York, while allowing all those magical creatures to interact with the scenery. The story, script, art direction, costumes and cinematography are also fantastic.

I applaud Rowling for resisting the urge to bring Harry Potter back, while offering a new perspective into her world of wizardry. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the perfect means to keep the magic alive.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Trailer