Warning: minor spoilers ahead
This review might be a tad biased because the Harry Potter books and movies were the great love of my childhood, my teenage years and my adult life. When the movie was first announced I was initially quite sceptical. I did not really know what to expect plot-wise as the book of the same name does not have a specific narrative. However, as soon as the first images of the movie were released I became very, very excited. The fact that one of my favourite actors, Eddie Redmayne, was cast as the main character made it all the better for me. The best news of all, perhaps, was that J.K. Rowling herself was to write the screenplay. To me, that was the big sign that this movie was going to be something truly great. I quickly booked my tickets for the midnight screening and eagerly counted down the days until november 15th.
Director: David Yates
Lead actors: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller
Score: James Newton Howard
First off, the plot is absolutely phenomenal. J.K. Rowling’s debut as screenwriter could not be more perfect. The story is built up masterfully, with quite a few plot twists that are unexpected yet immediately make perfect sense, a feat Rowling regularly used in the Harry Potter books as well. The “big” plot twist towards the ending is so skillfully executed that the audience audibly responded to it. It is so, so good! It truly shows that Rowling wrote the screenplay because her sense of humour, which I absolutely loved in the books and sometimes got a bit lost in the previous movie series, is very present. You can really see her style of writing throughout the entire film.
The characters are introduced in a very natural way, something that is becoming more and more rare in blockbuster movies these days. Newt Scamander is a delight of a main character and so are the others. Something I really like about them is that none of them are carbon copies of previous characters from the magical world. They are all wonderfully unique, the chemistry between them is fantastic and they each have their own sense of humour and ways of showing their emotions.
The main action scenes are strewn throughout the movie in a perfect balance, the locations are interesting and are used to their full potential and the story contains just the right amount of magic without leaning solely on that to make the movie good. What truly shows off Rowling’s spectacular insight in storytelling is how this movie slowly and carefully reveals the actual main story arc of this new series of films. I am already insanely excited about the next one, specifically about who is going to be cast as the younger version of a certain wise, powerful wizard we’ve all come to love in the previous series.
Speaking of casting, I cannot even begin to explain how much I love the cast of this film. Eddie Redmayne seems to have been born to play this role. Newt Scamander is a real introvert who does not get along well with people and much prefers the company of his beasts, yet Redmayne succeeds in making him lovable, quirky and a crowd favourite from the very beginning. One of the many reasons why I love Newt so much is that he shows that Hufflepuffs can be badass and brave as well because yes, I am a Hufflepuff too and yes, I take Hogwarts houses way too seriously. Moving on though.
Katherine Waterston and Alison Sudol, who play sisters Tina and Queenie, deliver flawless performances that make you hope, wish and pray that this will not be the last we will see of these characters. The character that won over the crowd more than anyone else perhaps is Jacob Kowalski, played by comedian Dan Fogler. It is so much fun to get to see Jacob, a muggle/no-maj/non-magical person, fall headfirst into this to him unknown world and see his wonder and awe. He is also brilliantly funny and the chemistry between him and Scamander is a joy to behold.
Ezra Miller’s Credence Barebone blew my mind as well. Credence reminds me a little bit of Draco Malfoy, not in personality but in the way that you can tell there is something “off” about him, he’s a bit eerie but he shows so much humanity and emotion at the same time.
Then of course there are the most magical characters of all; Scamander’s beasts. I could not love them more. They are colourful, fascinating, hilarious, mindblowing and infinitely interesting. I love that they all have their own personality and I love how they all provide little story arcs of their own. The niffler and bowtruckle Pickett are absolutely adorable and the scene where an erumpent breaks into the Central Park Zoo is a comedic masterpiece.
Which brings me to the absolutely spectacular visuals that are used in this movie. The best example of how stunning they are is the scene where Newt crawls into his little suitcase and invites Jacob to follow along. What we see then is a heavenly bit of movie-magic. Dozens of magical creatures are shown in their natural habitats while Newt takes care of them and introduces them to Jacob. By far my favourite shot (it audibly made me gasp in wonder) is the one that introduces the Thunderbird that lives in the suitcase. It is by far my favourite creature that Rowling has ever come up with. If the entire movie was just shots of Newt and his beasts in the suitcase I would be perfectly happy watching it. Truly breathtaking stuff.
I also really like the camera work. It is very fluent yet it not too hard on the eyes or too much of a whirlwind. The third element that really helps bring this story and this world to life is the music. James Newton Howard does an amazing job setting the tone with his score. The little references to the original Harry Potter score that is etched in our brains are lovely as well.
Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them is one of my new favourite movies already and I highly praise the entire cast and crew for having delivered such a perfect movie. I could not be more excited for what is to come and I am so very grateful to J.K. Rowling for bringing her magic back into the world, coincidentally at at time where we may need it most. I truly think that this series is going to be epic and I cannot wait to see where the story takes us next.