Director: David Yates
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler
Release Date: March 28, 2017
A Review By: Kevin Lovell
Film Rating: 8/10
Disc Rating: 8/10
There are growing dangers in the wizarding world of 1926 New York. Something mysterious is leaving a path of destruction in the streets, threatening to expose the wizarding community to the No-Majs (American for Muggles), including the Second Salemers, a fanatical faction bent on eradicating them. And the powerful, dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald, after wreaking havoc in Europe, has slipped away…and is now nowhere to be found.
Unaware of the rising tensions, Newt Scamander arrives in the city nearing the end of a global excursion to research and rescue magical creatures, some of which are safeguarded in the magical hidden dimensions of his deceptively nondescript leather case. But potential disaster strikes when unsuspecting No-Maj Jacob Kowalski inadvertently lets some of Newt’s beasts loose in a city already on edge—a serious breach of the Statute of Secrecy that former Auror Tina Goldstein jumps on, seeing her chance to regain her post as an investigator. However, things take an ominous turn when Percival Graves, the enigmatic Director of Magical Security at MACUSA (Magical Congress of the United States of America), casts his suspicions on both Newt and Tina.
Now allied, Newt and Tina, together with Tina’s sister, Queenie, and their new No-Maj friend, Jacob, form a band of unlikely heroes, who must recover Newt’s missing beasts before they come to harm. But the stakes are higher than these four outsiders—now branded fugitives—ever imagined, as their mission puts them on a collision course with dark forces that could push the wizarding and No-Maj worlds to the brink of war.
At last returning viewers to the wizarding world initially introduced in the ‘Harry Potter’ book and film series, ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them’ brings us to 1920’s New York along with peculiar wizard Newt Scamander (Redmayne) and his case full of magical creatures following his global quest searching for such beings. Upon his arrival, Newt quickly discovers the city in a state of panic, with boiling issues involving a family of witch-hating New Salemers and the recent escape and subsequent disappearance of the dreaded dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald both weighing heavy within the community. When some of Newt’s magical creatures are accidently released from their case and begin wreaking havoc throughout the city, he along with some unexpected companions including an ex- Auror named Tina Goldstein (Waterston), and a No-Maj named Jacob Kowalski (Fogler) join forces and race against time attempting to recapture the missing creatures before it’s too late; while other threats continue to grow elsewhere throughout the city.
Directed by veteran franchise director David Yates who helmed the final four films in the “Harry Potter’ film series, and from a screenplay by none other than J.K. Rowling (author of the Harry Potter book series) herself who makes her screenwriting debut with ‘Fantastic Beasts’, Yates does a wonderful job at the helm of ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them’ guiding Rowling’s script along smoothly and with no difficulty constructing plenty of breathtaking magical sequences throughout. The film also owes some share of the credit to the cast which includes a number of talented folks including Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything), Katherine Waterston (Inherent Vice), Dan Fogler (TV’s The Goldbergs), Alison Sudol (TV’s Dig), Ezra Miller (Justice League), Jon Voight (Transformers), Samantha Morton (John Carter), Colin Farrell (Phone Booth) and more, the majority delivering solid performances for the most part in each of their respective roles.
‘Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them’ makes a welcome addition to the ‘Harry Potter’ universe, taking fans back to a time before Harry and his friends existed and exploring the wizarding world through an American perspective, while also concentrating a great deal on some of the many mystical creatures that exist within the universe; something which is both a positive as it allows us a better glimpse at another breathtaking side of the world, yet also a negative as it often detracts from the interaction and character building of the human individuals who unfortunately while still enjoyable characters can also become somewhat interchangeable as their stories and personalities are forced to compete with a collection of noteworthy magical creatures in addition to a solid amount of visually dazzling action. Certainly no stranger to the universe, director David Yates does a solid job at the helm guiding this first installment in the new series with apparent ease, and having Harry Potter creator and book author J.K. Rowling herself contributing the screenplay, in addition to a more than capable cast of talented folks results in ‘Fantastic Beasts’ forming together into one fantastic little film overall and an encouraging introduction to what will hopefully be another outstanding series. The fellow 3D lovers who enjoy the universe will also be thrilled to discover that the Blu-ray 3D release offers a noteworthy 3D experience that while oddly lacking the Dolby Atmos soundtrack included on the 2D disc, still provides spectacular depth, along with numerous elements (and creatures) appearing to leap directly out of the screen, and an environment and story whose spectacle and wonder greatly benefits from the 3D format; this post-conversion nary ceasing to impress. I would strongly suggest the fellow diehard fans of the ‘Harry Potter’ universe and of J.K. Rowling’s work in general who haven’t yet had the pleasure of ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them’ to make a point of giving this one a shot when you have the chance. It’s an incredibly fun, warmhearted and visually impressive ride worthy of joining the universe that no Potter/Rowling fans will want to dream of missing out on.
Overall, ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them’ is a gorgeous, thrilling, often quite intense and just outright enjoyable return to the wonderful magical world initially introduced in the ‘Harry Potter’ series. Introducing fans to some enjoyable new characters, along with plenty of visually stunning magical creatures and no shortage of magic-enhanced action sequences to amaze, it makes a welcome addition to this fantastic world and a perfect kicking off point for a new series. ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them’ definitely comes highly recommended, particularly to the fellow fans of the Harry Potter world and Rowling’s talented work in general who weren’t able to catch it during its theatrical release. It should prove well worth the cost of a rental at the absolute least for those who might be hesitant to drop the funds on a blind purchase. The fellow 3D enthusiasts who enjoy the Potter franchise will also want to make a point of giving the 3D Blu-ray release a whirl if possible as it offers a thoroughly impressive post conversion that provides plenty of depth, notable pop out effects and just an overall fantastic 3D viewing experience that compliments the film perfectly.
The Blu-ray 3D release of ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them’ features a full 1080p High Definition MVC encoded 3D presentation utilizing the film’s original 2.40:1 Cinemascope Aspect Ratio. The 3D Blu-ray presentation looks absolutely stunning and offers a gorgeous, sharp, detailed and incredibly immersive 3D presentation. It provides impressive depth throughout and numerous noteworthy effects and images that appear to leap right from the screen, with everything from the city streets to the magical environments looking breathtaking, the film benefits tremendously from the 3D experience around nearly every turn. Overall, this is a spectacular high definition 3D presentation from Warner Bros that constantly benefits from the format and should have no trouble thrilling the fellow 3D fans out there.
The 2D Blu-ray release which is also included in the 3D Blu-ray combo pack features an AVC encoded full high definition video presentation also representing the film’s original 2.40:1 Cinemascope Aspect Ratio. As this review focuses primarily on the 3D Blu-ray release of the film, I wasn’t able to make my way through the entire standard BD disc just yet, although the various scenes I viewed and skipped through offer a consistently sharp, detailed and nearly flawless video presentation that looks wonderful and should have no trouble satisfying the fans and casual viewers alike.
In a somewhat bizarre move by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, the standard 2D Blu-ray disc features a Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 channel compatible) soundtrack, while the 3D Blu-ray disc features a somewhat less impressive (yet still quite solid) 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. As this release primarily focuses on the 3D presentation, let me begin by saying that the 5.1 channel DTS-HD MA soundtrack undeniably sounds fantastic for what it is, and without comparing it to the Atmos track on the 2D disc, it would be more than adequate, providing a clean, crisp and notably aggressive audio presentation throughout that offers numerous hard hitting action sequences and a nearly constant whirlwind of grin inducing surround activity whipping throughout the various speakers and never causing any dialogue which might be occurring simultaneously to become distorted or rendered inaudible in the process. The Dolby Atmos (TrueHD 7.1 compatible) soundtrack featured on the standard Blu-ray disc on the other hand is only all the more impressive and offers everything fantastic about the 5.1 lossless soundtrack and improves upon it. Overall, both the 5.1 channel DTS-HD MA soundtrack featured on the 3D Blu-ray disc and the Dolby Atmos (TrueHD 7.1 compatible) soundtrack on the standard Blu-ray disc each sound fantastic in their own right and offer yet another layer of fun to the overall viewing experience, although the Atmos soundtrack certainly ups the ante and even while neither lacks in the slightest the Atmos soundtrack is undeniably superior.
The Blu-ray 3D (and 2D) release of ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them’ includes numerous informative and enjoyable extras, the entirety of which can be found on the 2D disc (no extras are included on the 3D film disc). Included on the release are a number of ‘Deleted Scenes’ from the film (running approximately 15 minutes in length altogether), in addition to numerous behind the scenes Featurettes that take you deeper into bringing the film to life and include behind the scenes footage, interviews/comments with the cast and crew, plus more. The included Featurettes are: ‘Before Harry Potter: A New Era of Magic Begins!’ (running approximately 16 minutes), along with three multi-part Featurettes which are each broken down into various segments; the first is ‘Characters’ which includes ‘The Magizoologist’ (approximately 4 minutes), ‘The Goldstein Sisters’ (5 minutes), ‘The No-Maj Baker’ (5 minutes), ‘The New Salemers’ (5 minutes), and ‘The President and The Auror’ (6 minutes). The second multi-part Featurette section is ‘Creatures’ and includes: ‘Meet the Fantastic Beasts’ (approximately 4 minutes), ‘Bowtruckle’ (3 minutes), ‘Demiguise’ (2 minutes), ‘Erumpent’ (4 minutes), ‘Niffler’ (2 minutes), ‘Occamy’ (3 minutes), and ‘Thunderbird’ (2 minutes). The third multi-part Featurette section focuses on ‘Design’ and includes: ‘Shaping the World of Fantastic Beasts’ (approximately 6 minutes), ‘New York City’ (7 minutes), ‘Macusa’ (7 minutes), ‘Newt’s Magical Case’ (5 minutes), ‘The Shaw Banquet’ (4 minutes), and ‘The Blind Pig’ (5 minutes).