Director: David Yates
Running Time: 2 hours, 13 minutes
"Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" is the first spinoff/prequel to the Harry Potter franchise. David Yates returns to the director's chair to help bring this expanded universe to life based on a screenplay by J.K. Rowling. This entry is actually the first film in the Harry Potter universe not to be based on a book. Also, where the rest of the films took place in modern times in the UK, this one takes place in the 1920's in New York City. It introduces the audience to magic in a different way, from how it is taught to how it is kept a secret, and how magic related things are handled in a different environment. The biggest difference between the two countries is the laws about relationships between magic and non-magic beings. Where those types of relations are allowed in the UK, in the US, they are forbidden and there is a constant need for wizards and witchen to stay hidden. When Newt Scamander, played by Eddie Redmayne, arrives with his briefcase full of magical creatures and a few escape, it poses quite the problem for the local magical law enforcement.
We love the imagination that goes into creating all of the fantastical beings seen in "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them." We have seen creatures in this universe before, but never to this degree. Despite the title, the beasts are not the main focus of the film. The main focus is about the aforementioned fragile relationship between wizards and witches and no-majs, known as muggles in the Harry Potter films. This is manifested in the fanatical group known as the New Salem Philanthropic Society that espouses, quiet literally on the street, how witches exist and that they're a danger to humans. It is the manifestation of what the American wizarding world fears. This group is comprised of a bunch of orphaned children, including Credence, played by Ezra Miller, who is constantly beaten by the woman who runs the orphanage, played by Samantha Morton. Of course, all of this politicking is juxtaposed with Newt trying to round up the mysterious creatures that have been wrecking havoc across New York. He does so with the help of Kowalski, played by the perfectly cast Dan Fogler, and Tina and Queenie, played by Katherine Waterston and Alison Sudol.
Yates and Rowling manage to recreate that feeling of magical wonder here, and though this is mostly an introduction that sets up new story lines within this new universe, it manages to also be self contained, too. It serves its purpose in getting the audience excited to find out what more this universe has to offer. Bolstered by excellently cast performances and a lot of wizarding adventure, "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" is sure to delight even the most hardened critics at least a little bit.
My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 8/10
IMDB's Rating: ~8.0/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 76%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!