“Now I know I’m not dreaming… No way I’m smart enough to come up with this on my own.” – Jacob Kowalski, lucky No-Maj
Well here we go again. Harry Potter fans of the world can once again plunge into J. K. Rowling’s Wizarding World, and it’s awesome. This time, we cross the Atlantic to 1926 New York City, and to Newt Scamander, future famed author of the Hogwarts first-year textbook staple the movie is named after.
Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is visiting America with his suitcase full of creatures (using, by the way, an Undetectable Extension Charm that shits on anything you’ve seen before). By a mix up with No-Maj/Muggle, Jacob (Dan Fogler), some of those creatures are inadvertently released. Scamander must team up with Jacob, former Auror Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) and her sister Queenie (Alison Sudol) to track them down while avoiding the clutches of the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA).
As you watch, like Scamander and Jacob you look in awe at the American wizarding while exploring new realms like the MACUSA headquarters or goblin-run speakeasies. For me it brought back the nostalgic wonder of first following Harry Potter to Hogwarts fifteen years ago. Fantastic Beasts has all the familiar, light-hearted, sweeping shots of wizarding life and quirky magical displays, but doesn’t forget its primary audience is in their thirties now and as such, is not scared to delve into the much darker aspects of the story.
Whilst the love you have for the world of Harry Potter gets you into the cinema, the outstanding visual effects keeps you rooted to your seat. From interactions with other-worldly animals to reconstruction spells by MACUSA officials, it’s an absolute delight to see.
Redmayne makes for a perfect Newt Scamander. No, I suppose there’s no reference material save for J. K. Rowling’s mind, but he’s exactly what you’d picture a Magizoologist to be like from his quiet politeness to his subtle uneasiness around people. And you have to give special mention to Fogler’s portrayal of Jacob, who is a total scene stealer as a No-Maj completely in over his head. He kills with his throwaway lines and outbursts.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is everything the Harry Potter fan could want. It’s a completely new world laced with the familiar and peppered with references to the original series. The best thing is the joy of speculating what the next four films will bring, and what story arcs will be followed.
Image: Roadshow Films