★★★★ – “A delightful first instalment in what looks to be a Fantastic new franchise.”
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is written by J. K. Rowling & directed by David Yates and stars Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterson, Alison Sudol, Dan Fogler, Colin Farrell and Ezra Miller.
The adventures of writer Newt Scamander in New York’s secret community of witches and wizards seventy years before Harry Potter reads his book in school.
‘Beasts’ takes us back to 1920s New York, where Newt Scamander is briefly stopping over at the end of his global excursion to find and document extraordinary magical creatures. Although seeming simply unnecessary, J. K. Rowling has brought something completely new and original to the table. ‘Beasts’ surprised me in the best of ways, with a beautiful story and vibrant characters that never fail to amuse and entertain. Though, amongst the bright visual design and humble characteristics, there is a darkness lurking in the background. This becomes largely important as the film progresses, and ends with a climatic finale sequence that adds a new spark of life to the beloved ‘Potter’ franchise.
The leading mains have been written perfectly by Rowling and deliver stellar performances that feel grounded and relatable, especially Redmayne’s Newt and Fogler’s Kowalski. Alongside these are the leading ladies, Waterson and Sudol, who are also brilliantly radiant throughout. Ezra Miller is outstanding as Credence Barebone, bringing an emotional core to his character and exploring new sides of his acting abilities. Colin Farrell is satisfyingly suitable in his portrayal of Graves, who hides a mysterious secret that will keep you guessing until the final moments. These new characters are so vastly different to those in the ‘Potter’ films, but share the same charisma and excitement all the same. I’m looking very much forward to seeing where these characters head next, and how they could interact with different surroundings (possibly Hogwarts?) in future instalments, which I’m glad to say I’m extremely excited for.
The original score by James Newton Howard is refreshingly splendid, with layers upon layers of intricate detail to carry the story along gently while leaving space for a loitering, ruinous tension in the air. There are subtle nods to the original motifs from Williams’ but these are always appropriately used as a way to bridge the gap between ‘Beasts’ and ‘Potter.’
At times the visual and special effects feel almost unloved, most notably the interactions between Newt and Thunderbird, lacking the impeccable finish that the other creatures have. However, 95% of the film looks absolutely amazing and the cast provide great chemistry towards these strange but likeable beasts. The finale looks stunning and proves that there’s so much more to be explored visually throughout this new franchise. Huge props to everyone involved in the Art, Set and Costume departments, bringing a sense of authenticity to the film, along with the Sound department resonating an articulate and natural bed of sound. Also, the set design is remarkably realistic and provides a lush backdrop for our characters.
Director David Yates is familiar with the world of ‘Potter’ having helmed the final films in the series, so it’s expected that he presents us with another glorious feature and in doing so, kickstarting an optimistic set of films.
Verdict; Fantastic Beasts is a wonderful tale and in no way replicates what we’ve already seen before, delivering a fun, fast-paced and delightfully entertaining first instalment in what looks to be a Fantastic and promising new franchise.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – ★★★★ (7/10)