Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is surely one of the most hotly anticipated films of 2016, so getting right to the (hor)crux of the matter: it is suitably magical.
Affable magizoologist and professional Brit Newt Scamander (a bumbling Redmayne) is visiting 1926 New York with his suitcase-cum-animal conservation centre. After an accidental switcheroo with ‘No-Maj’ Jacob (Folger, a real breakout star) – and a rollicking niffler pursuit in an austere bank – the eponymous beasts are set loose, threatening the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy and the creatures’ own wellbeing (of paramount importance to Newt). Also swept up in the mayhem are the Goldstein sisters: ambitious and determined ex-Auror Tina (a strident Waterston) and dreamy Legilimens Queenie (Sudol).
Meanwhile, the fearful Mary Lou Barebone (an insidiously whispery Morton) is attempting to gain traction in the media for her anti-witch New Salem Philanthropic Society (why? Questions abound), and Colin Farrell is lurking in a pleasingly ambiguous, vaguely threatening way as Percival Graves, Director of Magical Security for MACUSA.
Redmayne is mostly adorable as the introverted Newt, but sometimes his awkwardness is slightly too studied. He has the fabulous Folger to bounce off, however, who wholeheartedly commits to his wide-eyed comic relief role. The same can be said for Sudol, whose Queenie would teeter on the edge of caricature but for her winning performance. Waterston is a serious but appealing rule-keeper as Tina (Hermione minus the know-it-all attitude). Beasts-wise, it’s safe to assume that nifflers and bowtruckles will be Christmas present list-toppers.
Fantastic Beasts has predictable ‘serial’ frustrations: characters jostle for attention and backstories are (currently) unexcavated. Patience is key as Rowling’s trademark detail spills off the screen, ripe for the copious analysis that Potterheads are poised to deliver. Trust in her magic that installment one’s aggravations will be relieved and disproved.
CAST: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Colin Farrell, Ezra Miller, Samantha Morton, Carmen Ejogo
DIRECTOR: David Yates
WRITER: J.K. Rowling
SYNOPSIS: When die-hard magical animal conservationist Newt Scamander visits New York, his unreliable suitcase is picked up by an unsuspecting ‘No-Maj’ (American for ‘Muggle’). Upon his opening of it, the scene is set for a magical pursuit around the city of a whole raft of amazing animals. Meanwhile, trouble is brewing for the American Ministry of Magic (MACUSA) as they attempt to keep the wizarding world under wraps whilst a dark and destructive force is apparent in the city.
A preview screening of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was kindly provided by Warner Bros. Pictures.