Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the first spin-off film in the Harry Potter series, and the first screenplay written by J. K. Rowling directly. It is the first of five films that will apparently lead up to the epic duel between Albus Dumbledore and the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald during World War II. And it is awesome.
Okay, let’s get my one big complaint out of the way first. J. K. Rowling is a British woman living in a country where handguns are completely banned, but wands (in her world) are carried without restriction. And now, she writes about the United States, a country with more guns than people, and she says that wands are heavily regulated and require a permit to carry here.
This despite the fact that the International Confederation of Wizards established the right to carry a wand at all times in 1692. (Quidditch Through the Ages, p. 28).
Yes, I’m a geek.
But other than that, Fantastic Beasts is an excellent movie, and J. K. Rowling has proved that she’s as good a storyteller in the area of screenplay as she is with novels. In my opinion, it better than most of the Harry Potter films, topped only by Deathly Hallows Part 2 and Prisoner of Azkaban.
On top of that, I firmly believe this is David Yates’s (who previously directed the last four Harry Potter films) best work as a director. I’ve previously been very critical of Mr. Yates for seemingly not understanding how to handle the characters in the Potter films and not being able to bring the best out of the lead actors, whom I thought did a lot of their best work in Prisoner of Azkaban. But in Fantastic Beasts, Mr. Yates has finally hit his stride. It’s beautifully directed, the characters are eminently relatable, and it packs in lots of action and an emotional impact equal to the best of Harry Potter.
Granted, Ms. Rowling’s worldbuilding has always been a little sloppy (maybe I’ll do a post on that later), and as other reviewers have said, it is a lot of exposition for the rest of the series, but those are small criticisms to the overall quality of the work.
I was nervous going into Fantastic Beasts both because of the debacle that was Cursed Child (despite Ms. Rowling not having written the play) and because of the choice of David Yates as director, but it exceeded my expectations on both counts, and it gives me high hopes for the next four films.
My rating: 4.5 out of 5.