While the story of Harry Potter ended cinematically six years ago, the wizarding world just wasn’t done being brought to life. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them follows Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), an employee at the British Ministry of Magic, as he travels to New York City in 1926 with his briefcase full of curious creatures that wreak havoc on the city. The start of a new franchise that will contain five films total, Fantastic Beasts is a magical adventure and a mesmerizing spectacle.
This Harry Potter spin-off introduces us to Newt Scamander, who is the author of a textbook used by Harry, Ron, and Hermione in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone which describes the magical creatures within the universe. The actual publication features many notes made by the trio. In this film, Newt is in the process of writing his manuscript. We see how he cares for these creatures and how he hopes to irradiate the fear many wizards have towards them.
However, he’s found himself in the midst of a troubled time in America. As fear of magic has risen in the country, a second Salem-esque witch hunt is threatening the lives of wizards. Not only is there the problem of the New Salem Philanthropic Society, but also the very paranoid Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA), which takes public acts of magic very seriously.
While the story takes place 70 years before the events of Harry Potter, and in another country, there are plenty of wonderfully placed references to the characters and places we know so well. Including a nice little name drop of a certain professor, Hogwarts, and how the two wizarding communities are different. It’s definitely fun for Potterheads to catch all these mentions.
The film features some amazing talent and Eddie Redmayne is just so charismatic I couldn’t imagine another person leading this franchise. The main cast is rounded out by Dan Fogler as Jacob Kowalski, a No-Maj aka Muggle, who is dropped into the world of magic after a chance meeting with Newt. A demoted MACUSA employee Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) and her kind-hearted, mind-reading sister Queenie (Alison Sudol). As well as Colin Farrell who portrays Percival Graves, the Director of Magical Security for MACUSA.
With such an amazing cast, the film is only elevated by it’s astounding creature and set designs as well as top-notch CGI. Every detail feels meticulously thought out and wonderfully crafted. I truly couldn’t find a flaw within this film. One great aspect is that despite it being the introduction to a new franchise, the film sits well on its own. It does not leave you with a painful cliffhanger or unfinished business. It’s a defined story and I cannot wait to see the next one.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them hits theaters November 18, 2016