Fantastic Beasts’ brings magic world to America

By Ivan Mateo

“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” is the long-awaited prequel/spinoff to J.K. Rowling’s critically acclaimed, fan favorite series of best-selling books and award-winning films.

Rowling writes the screenplay for the film, while director David Yates returns to helm “Fantastic Beasts.” He has previous directorial experience with the Harry Potter film universe directing the final four films of the series. Will this prequel make good ol’ Harry Potter proud?

“Fantastic Beasts” takes place in New York City in 1926 as the story follows magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) on his travels from England to America in search of more fantastic beasts to research and discover.

At the time of his arrival, something or someone wreaks havoc to the buildings and streets of New York. Is it a magical being or something else? Percival Graves (Colin Farrell), a high-ranking Auror (highly trained officer) for the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA), tries to solve the mystery of the destruction.

Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), a canning factory worker and aspiring baker, has a chance run-in with Newt at the bank. Their suitcases switch hands, one case full of delectable treats, the other encasing magical creatures. Uh oh.

Porpentina “Tina” Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) is a witch and former MACUSA Auror. She finds Newt practicing magic in front of Kowalski and other No-Majs to escape a sticky situation, but magic in public is forbidden in America. She takes him to the MACUSA headquarters despite her current job of office worker.

Kowalski is a muggle or No-Maj (American term for humans with no magical abilities), so of course beasts escape from his mistaken case. The characters in the film repeatedly find themselves running into each other in a wrong place, wrong time sort of situation, but find a way to make them right.

Newt, Tina and Kowalski must find all the beasts before they cause any havoc or, worse yet, have something happen to them.

Along the way, they meet Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol), Tina’s free-spirited sister with a penchant for reading people’s minds (Legilimency). She often uses her powers when unwarranted, and well, she “can’t help it.” Queenie and Kowalski serve as the comedic relief and bright lights of the movie.

Tensions begin to rise between muggles and wizards. Mary Lou Barebone (Samantha Morton) is a narrow-minded No-Maj and the sinister leader of the New Salem Philanthropic Society (NSPS), a group protesting and yelling anti-wizard sentiments.

Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller), Mary Lou’s troubled and mysterious adopted son, begrudgingly helps his adoptive mother. He meets with Graves to help solve the mystery in the destruction of the city.

Newt comes off as a little awkward and very clumsy at times, especially when it comes to interacting with people. He often mumbles and meanders around as if he is off in his own world. The audience learns later that he possesses an entire world inside his handy dandy suitcase.

The highlight of the entire film happens when Newt jumps into his magical suitcase to reveal to Kowalski a magical world filled with different habitats housing the various magical beasts. Newt shows a passionate affinity toward each creature because he has cultivated a relationship with each of them.

The beasts are fantastic in every sense of the word. They are adorably unique. They range from miniature leaf-like men called bowtruckles, waddling llama-like creatures called mooncalves, teleporting dodo birds called diricrawls and many others.

Some of the beasts are downright funny, especially every scene with Niffler, a small mole-like creature with a bird bill. Think of a platypus with a fondness for shiny objects.

In one scene, Newt performs a hilariously awkward mating dance as he attempts to grab the attention of an Erumpent, an elephant sized-rhino.

Kowalski adeptly encapsulates a description of the inner-workings of the luggage case when he blurts out, “I ain’t got the brains to make this up.”

Kowalski makes for the relatable character in that he provides reactions akin to what the audience might experience because none of the audience members possess magical capabilities or wands unless, of course, your name is David Blaine.

The other storylines with absence of beasts almost felt flat and wooden. The color palette of the film feels grey and dark, but that may be due to the fact that it was the winter season.

In contrast, every scene focusing on beasts was vibrantly alive.

Does “Fantastic Beasts” capture the magical lightning in a bottle for a newer generation to experience? Yes and no. The film is entertaining with each beast stealing the scene, but the film leaves a lot to be desired opting to instead push the plot forward for future sequels.

“Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them” is rated PG-13 for some fantasy action violence.

“Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them” is playing in theaters now.

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

‘Fantastic Beasts’ movie poster

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