Take one novelist making her screenwriting debut.
Add in the magical world she created some twenty years ago, but in a new continent and era.
Throw in some of the best actors in the world right now, including an Academy Award winner and star who shines in an ensemble.
Top it off with the director behind some of the most successful fantasy films of the decade and what you get is something….
Released at the end of 2016 and just recently released on 4K, Blu-ray and digital from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was written by Harry Potter creator JK Rowling and directed by David Yates. Together, they bring the Potter World back to audiences in a mOvid that is a new franchise, but which still hits many of the familiar beats from previous books and films.
In Fantastic Beasts, Oscar-winner Eddie Redmayne plays Newt Scamander, a collector of…well, fantastic beasts, who arrives in early 20th century New York City on his way to transporting one of them to a new home. Unfortunately, his magical bag that contains all creatures great and small is unwittingly opened, letting them loose in the streets of the big apple. Meanwhile, the hunt is on for a dark wizard named Grindlewald, led by the intense Pericival Graves (Colin Farrell).
JK Rowling shows incredible talent as a screenwriter for her first time out of the gate. Though there are a few slower moments than usual for a Potter World film, Rowling crafts interesting characters and some exciting set pieces. Performance-wise, all the actors do outstanding work, with top marks going to Redmaybne, Farrell, Ezra Miller as the mysteriously withdrawn Credence, and the outstanding Alison Sudol as the endearingly earnest and lovely Queenie Goldstein.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them looks gorgeous on home video, though I couldn’t help but find some of the CGI a little distracting. There are a lot of fantastic beasts in Fantastic Beasts and some of them simply look a little more real than others. Watching on a high-definition television absolutely brings those issues more to the front. There are also a significant amount of extras to be had, which take you deep into the new yet undeniably familiar world Yates and Rowling have created
One thing to be aware of is, unlike the Harry Potter films, the latter four of which have just been released on gorgeous 4K for the first time, and which have become instant kids classic, Fantastic Beasts isn’t as immediately engaging for younger children. I watched it with my 6 1/2 year old princess, and she wasn’t consistently engaged with the movie. That’s not a fault of the film, mind you – not everything need to be designed for little ones, but it’s worth noting that the film isn’t an instant home run if you’re looking for a cinematic babysitter.
For those of us that grew up on the world of Harry Potter, it’s certainly fun to revisit the world of Muggles (or No-mags) with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and I’m looking forward to another return with Rowling, Yates, and Redmayne.