Year of Release: 2016
Director: David Yates
Screenplay: J. K. Rowling, inspired by the book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J. K. Rowling
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Samantha Morton, Jon Voight, Carmen Ejogo, Ron Perlman, Colin Farrell
Running Time: 133 minutes
In 1926, British wizard Newt Scamander (Redmayne) arrives in New York City with a suitcase full of magical creatures, which are specifically banned under US wizarding law. It turns out that the situation is pretty grim for the magical community in New York. A militant, "No-Maj" ("non-magical", the American term for a person with no magical ability or connection) group called the New Salem Philanthropic Society claim that wizards and witches are real and dangerous, and that they should be wiped out, and a dangerous dark wizard is on the loose. When Newt's suitcase is accidentally opened, all his creatures are released, forcing him to team up with demoted Auror (kind of a wizard police) Tina Goldstein (Waterston), her glamorous psychic sister Queenie (Subol) and amiable No-Maj Jacob Kowalski (Fogler) to find and recapture the monsters before they expose the wizarding world.
This is technically a spin-off from the Harry Potter film series, based on the hugely successful novels by J. K. Rowling. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is referred to several times in the novels as a text-book, and Rowling published an edition of the book in 2001 to raise funds for the Comic Relief charity. This isn't really based on the book, instead it was an original screenplay by Rowling. Despite occasional references to Hogwarts and Dumbledore, this is wholly separate from the rest of the Harry Potter series. It's fun to have a look at more of the Rowling universe, and retaining the same production team as the Harry Potter film series it feels close enough to it to be part of the same world, but different enough to feel fresh, and it's own beast (no pun intended), even if at times it feels closer to Doctor Who (especially Eddie Redmayne's Newt Scamander, who could almost be the next Doctor). The special effects are incredible, and create a real sense of wonder. It also feels like a self-contained movie rather than just an introduction for other films in the franchise. It doesn't really have the emotional centre that Harry Potter has, but it is a very promising beginning for further adventures in the wizarding world.
Jacob (Dan Fogler), Tina (Katherine Waterston), Queenie (Alison Subol) and Newt (Eddie Redmayne) learn about Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them