The wands are back, the elves are back. The magic of JK Rowling's imagination is back, although with a slightly more somber tone than her Potter series. Fantastic Beasts soars to its fantastic expectations whenever the magical animals are onscreen; the plot and some characters, however, plod through shadowy tracks. Co-star Dan Fogler (Jacob Kowalski) is the heart of the show.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the name of a book mentioned in the first Harry Potter movie, Sorcerer's Stone. It's like a dictionary about magical creatures written by Newt Scamander (but JK Rowling in real life).

The film version follows British magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), who sets foot in prohibition-era New York in order to return one magical creature to its natural habitat, 70 years before a copy of Scamander's book lands in Harry Potter's hands.

Scamander is a little clumsy, and his magical suitcase gets switched with a no-maj Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler). Several creatures escape, but Scamander luckily meets former auror (magical police) Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) who helps him track down Kowalski to retrieve the creatures.

About the same time that Scamander arrived in the States, a series of murders have occurred in town. The Magical Congress of USA instructs head auror Percival  Graves (Colin Farrell) to investigate the matter, at some point suspecting that one of Scamander's escaped creatures is responsible. Further investigation reveals that the culprit is more connected to the anti-magic fanatical group led by Mary Lou Barebone (Samantha Morton) and her son Credence (Ezra Miller), but not until Scamander's escaped creatures have caused enough scandal to expose the magical world to normal Americans threatening their peace.

The movie lays down a convoluted plot to introduce Scarmander as a new hero in a new environment under a new threat to magical kind, basically an opening salvo to a new series of films under the Fantastic Beasts franchise. That twisted plot may or may not be resolved in the coming installments or extended edition DVDs- for now, the movie is telling a lot of stories, introducing characters and relationships.

I did enjoy seeing all the magical creatures which were all given the same wide-eyed wonderful exposition as the rest of the Potter films. The trouble-making niffler gets a lot of Screen-time, but my favorite is the invisible monkey thingie and the resizing snake-dragon Occamy. Personally, I have issues with humans who keep animals outside their natural habitat for personal entertainment (I am against zoos and dolphin shows, the movie thankfully portrays Scamander as a humane caretaker. Sort of. I'm also uncomfortable with Redmayne's obvious theatricality while appropriate for a fantasy film, can be distracting. Just try to understand his slurring words.

The emotional heart of the film is with the human Kowalski, whose character serves as the innocent eyes of a non-magical person thrust into an amazing adventure-just as the audience is. I would also ship Jacob and Queenie (Alison Sudol), Tina's psychic sister.

Overall, a slightly confusing but very entertaining story about a gifted guy in a new place seeking to recapture a number of wonderful creatures using a special box, with the help of new friends he meets along the way. So now we know how a live action Pokemon Go movie will look like.

Watch movie trailer here.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Directed by David Yates
Written by J.K. Rowling

Review by: Vives Anunciacion
Inquirer LIBRE

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