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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Released 18 November 2016
Director David Yates
Starring




Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Samantha Morton, Jon Voight, Carmen Ejogo, Colin Farrell
Writer(s) J.K. Rowling
Producer(s)

David Heyman, Steve Kloves, J.k. Rowling, Lionel Wigram
Origin United Kingdom, United States
Running Time 133 minutes
Genre Adventure, family, fantasy
Rating 12A
82

Spellbinding.

I first became aware of Eddie Redmayne back in 2007, when he played opposite Julianne Moore in Savage Grace. With his ethereal paleness and high cheekbones, Redmayne was a striking screen presence and it was obvious to me that he would have a great career. Nine years later, Redmayne does indeed have a great career but not exactly the one I predicted for him. Instead of becoming the androgynous darling of indie cinema, he has become something of a professional Englishman, bewitching the mainstream with his Hugh Grant mumbling and bashful smiles. If I’m honest, it’s a shtick that has begun to grate on me but I can’t deny that it makes him a perfect fit for J.K. Rowling’s post-Potter opus Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

For this prequel of sorts, we travel back in time to 1926. Redmayne plays English wizard Newt Scamander, a bookish type who specialises in the study of magical creatures. In the course of his studies, Scamander takes a trip to New York City, bringing with him a collection of said creatures in a worryingly battered suitcase. It is a fractious time in New York as the wizarding community faces persecution from those who warn of the dangers of magic (led by a zealous Samantha Morton as the cruel Mary Lou Barebone) and a dark presence tears through the city wreaking havoc. When some of Scamander’s creatures break free, he must try and recapture them with the help of magical sisters Tina and Queenie Goldstein (Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol) and No-Maj (non-magical) Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler).

In terms of world-building, Fantastic Beasts is an unqualified success. Prohibition-era New York is beautifully rendered with enough sheen to make it breath-taking and enough rough edges to make it believable. In IMAX 3D, the experience of flying around the city on the tale of these magical creatures is a giddy thrill. Redmayne brings the full force of his charm to bear as Scamander but the other leads are just as fabulous. Waterston and Sudol are refreshingly well-rounded heroes and never have to resort to being damsels in distress. Fogler meanwhile has an easy charisma as he falls under the spell of his new wizarding friends.

Director David Yates has made a film that is above all a great adventure and is only enhanced by the virtuoso visuals. The attention to detail is spectacular and spending time in the company of these heroes is truly spellbinding.

- Linda O’Brien