When the last Harry Potter movie came out I breathed a sigh of relief. “At last that’s over. We can move on to other things.”
It’s not that they were bad movies. It’s just that there were so many of them, and so many characters, and it just kept building and building on itself. And if you hadn’t read the books — and I hadn’t — then it was easy to get lost in the morass.
And now, here we go again.
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” is the first in a new line of tales written by Potter scribe J.K. Rowling. They take place in the Potter universe, but some time before Harry makes the scene.
The year is 1926 and all the witches and wizards have taken their magical skills underground so as to avoid war with the humans. Policing the magicians here in the U.S. is the very dapper Percival Graves (Colin Farrell).
The hero of this piece is Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), an unassuming sort who’s just arrived in New York off the boat from England.
Newt carries with him a magical suitcase. Inside it are a change of clothes, various toiletries and a number of fantastic beasts — the kind you won’t find in any zoo.
Shortly upon arrival, one of Newt’s charges escapes the suitcase and leads Newt on a merry chase. Caught up in the confusion is the non-magical everyman Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler). Jacob just wants a loan so he can open a bakery, but instead he gets dragged into Newt’s magical mystery tour.
Newt is arrested for using magic in public by Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) and hauled off to the Magical Congress of the USA (I only wish I were making this up). When it is discovered that he has an evil black blob of energy (a.k.a. an Obscurial) in his suitcase, Newt is sentenced to death.
There’s a lot more to the story, a whole lot more, but you get the idea. One thing this movie is not short on is plot. The film runs a bit over two hours and could’ve benefited from some editing. The ending is particularly dragged out.
If you’re a fan of the Harry Potter series then you’ll probably enjoy this. The special effects, the costumes, the actors, the set designs — are all of the same high caliber as the earlier franchise. The characters aren’t as interesting as Harry and the Hogwarts crew but give them time.