When J.K. Rowling sat down to write Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone over two decades ago, she had no idea how successful it would be. However, Rowling's debut novel was adored by fans from all over the world and she decided to write a sequel, which was soon followed by five more books. Harry Potter quickly became a global phenomenon that inspired a range of merchandise and a theme park in Orlando. After the last book was released as a film in 2011, fans were eager for more. Luckily for them, J.K. Rowling has returned to our screens with the next instalment, the long-awaited prequel Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which promises to fill the gap where Harry Potter used to be.
As I'm sure you're already aware, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is based on the J.K. Rowling book of the same name. It was written in 2001 and is even mentioned in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. As with Harry Potter, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them focuses on the wizarding world. However, the major difference is that Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is set in 1920s America rather than modern-day England. Despite the fact that we do hear Dumbledore's name at one point in the film, there is no mention of Harry Potter himself, although that is to be expected since Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is set almost one hundred years before.
In Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, we are introduced to Newt Scamander, a magizoologist who is portrayed by the British actor Eddie Redmayne. Newt has travelled all the way from England to America in order to release a giant bird known as a Thunderbird back into its natural habitat in Arizona. 1Newt is characterised by the briefcase he always carries, which turns into a menagerie that is home to the Thunderbird and a whole range of other strange, magical creatures. Unfortunately, Newt's journey to Arizona is delayed after a chance encounter with 'no maj' Jacob Kowalski (Dan Folger) and Porpentina 'Tina' Goldstein (who initially arrests Newt for being an unregistered wizard). Jacob accidently mistakes Newt's briefcase for his own, causing some of the beasts to escape and wreak havoc in New York. With the help of Jacob and Tina, Newt sets out to try to contain these beasts, almost revealing the wizarding world in the process.
Eddie Redmayne is the perfect casting for lead, since he's sweet, awkward and quintessentially British. There is great chemistry between him and Katherine Waterson, who plays Tina. Jacob adds comedic value to the film, and it's cute how besotted he is with Tina's sister Queenie (Alison Sudol), who has mind-reading abilities and is overly flirtatious. Colin Farrell also stars in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, as Percival Graves, and it's clear from the start that his character has evil intentions. Johnny Depp makes a brief appearance at the very end, which is likely to be developed further in the rumoured sequel, despite the backlash this has received from fans.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them will take you on a rollercoaster of a ride through New York during the Jazz Age. There is plenty of action to keep the restless entertained, and the overall mood is much darker than that in Harry Potter, making the film more suitable for an older audience. Visually, the film is impressive, with its towering skyscrapers, speakeasies, gritty city streets, and realistic-looking beasts. Audiences will particularly like the 'niffler', a small creature which is similar to the duck-billed platypus and has an obsession with shiny objects.
It's not surprising that Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them grossed over $10 billion at the box office. Director Yates has successfully created a film that is almost as addictive as Harry Potter and will satisfy fans of the original franchise. It's creative, enchanting and gripping. Let's hope we'll be seeing more of Scamander soon.