Directed by: David Yates
Written by: J.K. Rowling
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Samantha Morton, Jon Voight, Ron Perlman, Carmen Ejogo, Colin Farrell
Runtime: 132 min
J. K. Rowling published a new book from the same universe as Harry Potter's a few months ago, so we knew a movie was coming soon ... And here we are, starting a whole new saga of, apparently, 5 movies. For the first time, Rowling decided to also be part of the movie development, contributing as the screenwriter for this film and for the ones to come, so there's a lot of high expectations for this series.
70 years before the events on Harry Potter, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is looking around New York City for some magical creatures that escaped his unusual suitcase and trying to catch them before other wizards do. These creatures are feared by the magical community who defines them as dangerous, but Newt thinks the opposite: the beasts are friendly and kind for the ones that are the same to them, so this makes his mission secret, complicated and with a lot of adventures.
I was never a hardcore fan of the Harry Potter's movies, but I did enjoy all of them, especially the last ones, so I was excited enough to get out and watch it in theaters. I have to say this right off the bat: you don't need to have seen the previous adventures of Harry Potter and his friends to watch this movie and that's something to praise!
Every single prequel, sequel or spin-off always have some sort of bond to the first movie(s), but not Fantastic Beasts. They actually made an effort to achieve a good film without depending on the other famous story and heroes, this is a new start for a new (I hope, amazing) adventure with new characters, new spells, different places, rules and names (humans that were called Muggles are now called NoMag, for example).
As for the story and characters, everything's just great. Eddie Redmayne does an excellent job portraying a caring, loving and vulnerable character like Newt. He's very likable and he's able to hide his past without it being too cheesy or lame. Dan Fogler as Jacob Kowalski is another perfect casting, he's hilarious and he basically plays us, an audience member. He doesn't know what's happening, he needs explanations about everything and everyone which doesn't really help the movie since there's a lot of exposition scenes, even if they're understandable for a movie that needs to set up a new world (like I said, it has almost nothing to do with the other one). Still, he was the reason behind the biggest emotional moment of the whole film and he's, for sure, the audience's favorite character.
Another great surprise was the portrait of Tina (an investigator who's trying to figure out the mess that's going on in the city) by Katherine Waterston, she was able to capture that needed emotion on the right moments and was also a very likable character. Colin Farrell as Percival Graves was amazing, even if he doesn't appear that much. He was still connected to the biggest (but obvious) twist of the film.
David Yates does a fantastic job as the director, he clearly understands this magic world like no one else and I hope he stays for the rest of the franchise. However, his editing team doesn't seem to be on the same page in terms of quality. There's a ton of CGI and editing mistakes and some cuts aren't that fluid. Another issue with this movie is the pacing: there's a lot of needed and cool character building moments, but there's also a lot of scenes that are just ... there. Every scene with the creatures is so exciting that, when we're not watching someone trying to capture one of them, the level of interest decreases a lot.
There are some good twists throughout the film, but there's a lot of narrative issues like the ones I mentioned above. Heavy exposition scenes with Jacob, a lot of entertaining scenes that don't have any purpose for the story and all of this combined gives birth to a somewhat slow pacing. The villain is not something I really bought into it, but I guess I'll just have to wait for the next movies.
In the end, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is an enjoyable film, it's a showcase of the magic and creatures of this new world, it sets up a whole new franchise, but it's still a good movie (learn a little bit with this DC Comics). Great characters, excellent performances with perfect writing and a nice story to introduce us everything that's new. Some editing flaws plus a lot of exposition scenes and a pacing sometimes off brings the movie down, but still to an entertaining level.