Director David Yeats is back on the Hogwarts Express, except this time the train isn’t leaving from platform 9 ¾ but is instead in midtown Manhattan at the turn of the 20th century. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them goes back to the roaring 20’s as a prequel to the Harry Potter series, alluding to certain nostalgic figures such as Albus Dumbledore, and less nostalgic elements such as the Le Strange family, Gellert Grindelwald and the Deathly Hallows inscription. The prequel remains in the same world as the Harry Potter features but seems to have a story of its own. For many viewers the beauty stays in being a part of that world once again — particularly in this annus horribilis — the only shard of light seems to have come from J.K. Rowling awaking the world of magic once again with her play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and now with this film.

Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), an employee at the Ministry of Magic, journeys to New York with a suspicious bag full of rare and magical creatures that seem to want to escape whenever they have a chance.  Newt, American former Auror Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterson) and No-Maj (American muggle) Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) embark on an adventure reminiscent, but not quite worthy, of our iconic trio Harry, Ron and Hermione. It’s hard to not draw parallels between the two sets since they have J.K. Rowling’s writing in them  — one way or another  — and the direction is by Yeats, who previously did Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I & II. The film is arguably not up to standards with the other Yeats’ renditions of the world Rowling has created, but then again in the  original series that universe gets darker and darker as the children (and the readers) grow older and older. Maybe in the next four sequels of this spin-off the same will happen.

The film is enjoyable, suitable for all ages, full of fantastic special effects and awesome-sounding wizard names (such as MACUSA, Magical Congress of the United States of America). My only reservation was towards the female actors in the film, particularly going from great Dame Maggie Smith, Helena Bonham Carter and Julie Walters to the actresses picked for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the gap is a canyon. And not because the actresses weren’t well known — or knighted by the Queen — but because they just weren’t that convincing. Katherine Waterson gave the impression that she didn’t really want to be there and Carmen Ejogo, who played President Seraphina Picquery, was so bland I could have cried; nowhere near the obnoxious Cornelius Fudge or creepy Rufus Scrimgeour and, dare I say it, the new great Minister Granger. I’ll stop diverging into Harry Potter now.   

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is absolutely worth the ticket, particularly because Eddie Redmayne is the most lovable English man possible and because it’ll bring you back, once again, to that wonderful world of magic.

Also, Johnny Depp has a cameo…

About the author

Bianca Serafini

Resident American Arts Editor, overseas the Arts section with meticulous efficiency. Pitch her anything, big or small, as she’s usually locked up in the Badger office drinking coffee, and occasionally absconds in search of a cheeseburger. Fun warning: don’t bring up Trump.

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