Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Review! (Spoilers!)
We have returned to the Wizarding World that author J.K. Rowling introduced us to in the popular Harry Potter books that went on to become one of the biggest movie franchises for Warner Brothers. Now we jump forward fifty years, before Harry Potter was born, as we follow Newt Scamander, played by Eddie Redmayne . He is a Magizoologist in the Roaring 20's. A wizard who cares for magical creatures. He lands in New York City en route to Arizona to return a magical bird back to it's natural habitat.
As Newt wanders through the streets of New York he runs into the Second Salemers, a group of people devoted into gathering others to their cause. Aware of the existence of witches, the Second Salemers want to expose the Wizarding World to the public, but one of the members isn't what he seems as they hide a terrible secret. It is there, as Newt listens to the leader of the cult, where a magical creature escapes from his briefcase that he's carrying, and sneaks into a bank. Inside the lobby, a man named Jacob Kowalski, a No-Maj as North American wizards and witches call non-magic folk, is waiting patiently, and nervously to open a loan for a bakery he has in mind. He runs into Newt trying to retrieve one of his magical creatures, and in the process accidentally finds out that Newt is a wizard. He is scared off, and runs away before Newt has a chance to wipe his memory with a spell. In the confusion, Jacob runs off with Newt's briefcase instead of his own since they look almost identical to one another.
From there the movie kicks off. Newt has to find Jacob to retrieve his briefcase before it is open, releasing the magic creatures into the city which would be devastating. Which of course, no surprise, is what happens. Along the way Newt is confronted by Tina Goldstein, a demoted witch working for the Magical Congress of America who wants her original position back desperately. Also tagging along is Tina's quirky sister, Queenie. They find Jacob, and Newt lets him help as they rush to clean up the mess they left behind. At the same time a dark and mysterious force is threatening to expose the Wizarding World. Investigating the unseen problem is Percival Graves, Director of Magical Security working for the President. The President of the Wizard World that is. He is played by, Colin Farrell who accuses Newt, and his magical creatures as the culprits.
The film has plenty of intrigue, mystery, and it has more of a sinister tone than the Harry Potter series, focusing strictly on the politics of the Wizarding community rather than school children. It even introduces one of the very first Dark Wizards, Gellert Grindlewald, to terrorize both worlds before Voldemort rose to power. He appears toward the end; Spoilers, played by Johnny Depp. Grindlewald is after the dark force that is stalking the streets of New York in hopes that he could get it to join his army.
Parts of the movie are lively, and colorful, but if you are looking to take your kids they may find themselves bored. If there aren't magical creatures on screen, the film examines the characters, and their motives rather than the wonders of a magical castle. You will even notice that the entire magical creature plot-line was just a gimmick. The real story of the film is of the rise of Grindlewald, and the looming threat he is to both wizard, and human kind. This movie was a nice introduction into a different side of this universe we haven't seen before, but it also expects you to remember or recall things from the previous movies, and Harry Potter books. If you are not familiar with them you may find yourself lost at times.
It is a fun, although at times, uneven expansion into the Wizarding World we all fell in love with years ago. It entertains, it excites, even though you may find yourself rolling eye's during certain moments throughout the film. This could have easily just been a cash grab movie, with the story and characters falling to the wayside, but they did a decent job. I'm interested in the inevitable sequels that are to follow, and I have a very good feeling those won't disappoint as well.