Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Although I have seen all eight Harry Potter movies released between 2001-2011, I could never be considered a Potterhead, a Wizarding World connoisseur, or an expert on all things Rowling.
I'm a mere Muggle, unfamiliar with the intricate plot twists or character relationships. I deeply admire the author, though, for she has crafted an intricate, wonderful, and detailed world that has enthralled hundreds of millions of children worldwide. She should be commended for her advocating of 'reading' as a worthy way to spend one's time. In a world where digital entertainment has a firmer grasp than ever, youngsters need to appreciate a good book. Irony be thy name, because yours truly will also grab a film or a video game instead of a novel after a hard day's night.
For shame, yes.

Enter Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, then. The ninth film in the overall Potter universe, but the first to not feature the boy wonder. The prequel takes place in the New York City of 1926 (when my grandfather, bless his 91-year old soul, was a 1-year old toddler, and when Chuck Berry was born) and stars Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander. Although many beats will be familiar to those who have enjoyed the Harry Potter movies (David Yates is back in the director's chair, for one), Fantastic Beasts aims to spin its own story and eventual overarching narrative. And it does so with aplomb.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them may very well be the best movie of 2016 so far. It's an overall rousing success. Eddie Redmayne is magnificent in the title role, perfectly complimented by a cast of wonderful supporting players. Katherine Waterston manages to combine American sass with a hint of British flair (even though the actress is American), Alison Sudol is charming and sultry yet never sexualized, Colin Farrell pulls off his best American accent (see Minority Report for more), Ezra Miller confirms his major talent first witnessed in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Dan Fogler is the audience surrogate in every sense of the trope.

With stunning production design (1920's NYC is a sight for sore eyes), gorgeous music by James Newton Howard, cute titular beasts that demand to be collected as action figures, and sweeping and enchanting cinematography, the movie has all the ingredients of artistic merit. Even though I suspect they were achieved digitally, there are shots where the camera flows through the beasts in a dancing, steadicam-esque way. It's nothing short of amazing. The movie even manages to make cockroaches look cute, and that's quite the accomplishment.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them demands to be seen on the biggest screen you can find. It will leave you floored, enchanted, inspired, joyous and uplifted. For lack of a better word, it's a fantastic time at the movies. Not to be missed.

Julian De Backer, 30 November 2016