As the Warner Bros. logo flies towards you and John Williams familiar theme rings in your ear, you will be forgiven for thinking you’ve traveled back in time. It may only take a few seconds further for a new title to appear and the musical cue to shift into James Newton Howard’s’ fantastic new score, but you will feel right at home all the way (if you are a fan of this wizarding world anyways). This is because everything from the moving newspapers, to the mannerisms, to the spells, and even the style of humor, feel like a world we have lived in before.
The big difference in this movie is there’s no Harry and we are being taken back in time by about 75 years from when this whole thing began. A truly inspired choice if I don’t say so myself. The style of the 1920’s lends itself to the wizarding world like gang busters. Everything from the suits to the cars feel tailor made for Rowling’s brand of magic and storytelling. And while we are on the subject of Rowling, it cannot go unsaid how talented a writer she is. Newt Scamander may be our new hero, but J. K. Rowling is the star of this movie.
Now, let’s get into Mr. Scamander (lovingly played by Eddie Redmayne). He is a perfect replacement for Harry Potter. He is quirky, witty, and just a blast to follow around. His relationship with the muggle Jacob (Dan Fogler) is really the heart of the movie. In fact, Jacob is kind of the stand in for us as the audience, and he does a wonderful job of filling the bill. So, it’s kind of like we are being introduced to this world for the first time. Which will be great for newcomers.
There is also great chemistry between Newt and Katherine Waterston’s character Porpentina Goldstein. They meet shortly after Newt comes off the boat to New York and one of his Beasts starts running a muck in a bank. This is a very funny sequence that leads to the connection of all the characters. Which includes one of my favorite relationships, a delightfully banter filled romance between Jacob and Porpentina’s sister, Queenie (Alison Sudol). So much fun.
Honestly, the only real issues I had with this movie were the slightly thin explanation for why Newt comes to New York and some of the visual effects. Still, most of the effects are eye popping, set design is killer, music is phenomenal, and the beasts are great. You have to give the advertising team credit for not giving away all these wonderful creatures. It truly is a surprise to see each of them and that’s a unique movie experience.
Throw in a well played villain by Colin Farrell, with a story that zips along, and you’ve got a magical movie. It’s imperfect, but most movies are. The real question coming in was “will it feel as good as the Harry Potter movies?” The answer to that is a resounding “yes!” I could not be more excited to see what happens next.