As with a huge chunk of the population, I am a big fan of the Harry Potter franchise. I think it was a rare series that got better with every new instalment. So after the gigantic success of eight movies, we were all anxiously awaiting what J.K. Rowling was going to be up to next. In 2016 she returned to the wizarding world with a screenplay for a new tale called Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. This month the film hits Blu-ray shelves.
Set in 1926, Fantastic Beasts is the story of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), a young activist wizard from England is visiting New York on his way to Arizona on a global excursion to find and document an incredible array of magical creatures. He carries with him a magical expanding suitcase containing a wide array of these creatures but when the case is accidentally switched, Newt must recapture the escaped beasts as well as deal with brewing turmoil in the wizarding world and their existence with the regular world.
I wasn’t really sure how Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them would measure up to the now iconic world of Harry Potter but it turns out my doubts were unfounded. Fantastic Beasts is a wonderful story that is brought to vivid life by director David Yates who not coincidentally directed the last four Harry Potter films as well. Yates knows this material almost as well as Rowling herself now and despite this film being set decades before the Potter series; it still feels like the same world. And in Eddie Redmayne the film really found a character that feels directly connected to the wizarding world as well. Redmayne has a wonderful wide-eyed innocence that just suits the story perfectly and gives us a commanding substitute for Potter himself. The story of Fantastic Beasts is also a great history lesson on the world that led up to the Potter universe and how it got to be the way it is. There are many mentions of things we are already familiar with and even Newt himself does some amazing handiwork with a wand. The supporting cast all feel at home including Samantha Morton and Ezra Miller with Colin Farrell providing the required broodiness and Dan Fogler turning in an incredible scene stealing sidekick performance that is hilarious and surprisingly touching. I think it may be the best performance of his career. And the special effects, as with the Potter series, are superb and beautiful. The myriad of creatures on display in this film rivals all the creatures in the Potter series as a whole.
Overall Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a spectacular new addition to the Rowling universe and I sincerely hope we don’t have to wait another five years for a new chapter. Highly recommended.