By: Matt McDonald, Columnist
Since 2011, fans of the unforgettable “Harry Potter” series have waited and wondered whether J.K. Rowling would continue the phenomenon, and this year they got their wish. With the release of “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” the first of five in a new series, diehard fans have dusted off their robes and pulled out their wands for another five years of exciting magic and adventure.
“Fantastic Beasts” stars Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander, a magizoologist — a person who studies magical creatures — who comes to America in the early 1920s to return one of his many magical creatures he was looking after. When his case of magical creatures gets switched for Jacob Kowolski’s briefcase, some of Scamander’s creatures get loose in New York City. With the help of Jacob and ex-Auror Porpentina Goldstein, he must recapture the creatures before the “no-maj’s,” or non-magic people, become suspicious of the underground wizarding community. All the while an Obscurus, a dark force of explosive magic developed by wizards and witches who try to suppress their magic, causes chaos and destruction on the city.
Out of all of the characters that Redmayne has played, I firmly believe this is his best yet. He gives Scamander such charm in his introversion and love of his magical creatures, as well as in his skill with a wand and knowledge of potions. The story he’s thrown into is brilliantly written and detailed, coming from none other than the mind behind the series itself, J.K. Rowling.
A number of subplots, including the rise of future dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald in Britain, are interwoven with such precision that it is not overwhelming, and yet the audience is not spoon fed exposition.
I consider myself a huge “Harry Potter” fan, and, while I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, there were a few problems. First, because both the Obscurus and one of Scamander’s creatures can turn invisible, it can be hard to distinguish one from the other at times.
Second, I felt that Percival Graves, a security officer for MECUSA, was an incoherent character. There are many moments in which he suddenly decides something that creates a jarring turn in the story without explanation. There is also a certain twist that, while it makes sense, seems to have been rushed and could have been further set up.
I have waited for this movie since last December, and it certainly did not disappoint. Between its lighthearted comedy, emotional undertones, and beautiful scenery, this film gives the audience a thrilling two hours and a fresh look at a new era of the Harry Potter Universe. While it isn’t the exact series fans grew up watching, it is a captivating addition that holds the same magic and wonder we fell in love with. 3.5/4.