Its been five years since the last Harry Potter film was released and a huge part of many of my generation’s lives ended. So the announcement of a spin-off film brought much excitement, and a little trepidation! Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them follows Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) – who is the author of one of the textbooks used during Harry’s time – and is set in 1926, 70 years before the events of the Harry Potter series. Newt has just completed a global excursion to find and document an array of magical creatures – leading to his eventual textbook – and has arrived in New York for one final mission. His time there would have gone seamlessly were it not for a suitcase mix-up with Jacob (Dan Fogler), a non-magical person (Muggle to us Potter geeks, though confusingly the Americans in this film refer to them as No-Maj’s). Jacob proceeds to accidentally release a load of Newts magical creatures and the two of them, along with Tina (Katherine Waterston) an American witch and her sister Queenie (Alison Sudol) attempt to find them before the magical world is exposed. Whilst this is happening another story line involving the mysterious deaths of witches and wizards is occurring. The two soon interlink and Newt must prove that his creatures are not the culprits.
Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl & The Theory of Everything – for which he won an Oscar) is absolutely perfect as Newt Scamander, I love him as an actor anyway so was very happy when he was revealed as the lead! The character of Newt is very passionate about all magical creatures and Eddie plays this brilliantly, you can really see the care and attention he gives to each one and his desperation to prove that rare/unknown creatures are not necessarily dangerous and therefore shouldn’t be harmed. Newt and Jacob are the perfect double-act giving moments of humour as well as more emotional scenes. Eddie and Dan work really well together, as do Dan and Alison (Queenie) who bring the romantic side of the film. In fact the whole cast is brilliant, and there are a few well known names too! Colin Farrell plays Graves, one of the wizards working against Newt and his creatures, and though disappointingly he doesn’t have his lovely Irish accent, he is excellent as one of the baddies. Jon Voight (Angelina Jolie’s Dad) has a small role, as does Johnny Depp – though his character will be followed more in the upcoming sequels – and Gemma Chan (Humans and Jack Whitehall’s girlfriend).
Overall, I was very worried that I wouldn’t like this film. I am a huge Potter geek and the thought of a film set in the same world but without all the characters we know and love was a little hard to stomach at first. However, I am pleased to say I absolutely loved Fantastic Beasts! Yes it was a little strange to hear all the same terminology but as it’s set in the 20s there is a different feel to the film – possibly due to that time’s fashion and the fact it’s set in New York and not England – and actually now that I think about it not a lot of magic is actually used! Eddie Redmayne gives a great performance, boosted by his brilliant supporting cast and the CGI throughout is fantastic. If you’re a fan of the Harry Potter films then this is a must see, and if you haven’t seen any (though I’m not sure such a person exists!) then you can still see Fantastic Beasts and not get confused, there are a few references to characters etc to link it to the other films but it’s very much a stand-alone story.
There’s something about the way J.K.Rowling writes, you are instantly transported into another (magical!) world. Everything from the dialogue to the casting to the costumes/settings is brilliantly done. It feels great to have the wizarding world back in our lives, and to learn about events and much loved characters lives leading up to the Potter series. It has been announced that Fantastic Beasts will be another franchise consisting of 5 films and I for one can’t wait for the next instalment!