Harry Potter creator JK Rowling expands that world with this captivating tale, starring Eddie Redmayne and set in 1926 New York.
Playing wizard Newt Scamander (purported author of the spoof Hogwart’s textbook Rowling wrote in aid of Comic Relief in 2001) with bags of beguiling, diffident charm, Redmayne guards a menagerie of magical creatures.
However, led by the adorably mischievous Niffler, they break loose from his suitcase, just as an extremely dangerous dark magical force is making its presence felt in New York.
Newt is soon in the thick of things, trying to recapture his escaped beasts while trying to avert even greater disaster with help from Dan Fogler’s tubby factory worker Jacob, a No-Maj (as Muggles are known in America), demoted Auror Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) and her bubbly mind-reading sister Queenie (Alison Sudol).
Director David Yates, maker of the last four Harry Potter films, handles all this tremendously well, pulling off moments of high-spirited comedy and episodes of peril and derring-do with dash and verve.
Meanwhile, the film’s evocation of a Jazz Age magical metropolis living cheek-by-jowl with Prohibition-era New York is thoroughly enchanting. Coleen Atwood’s Oscar-winning costumes add to the wonder, but it is Rowling who deserves the most credit. Her imagination as capacious as Newt’s suitcase, she displays total assurance in expanding the Harry Potter universe into a different time period and continent with her first screenplay. And, while the setting may be new, the message of tolerance underpinning the narrative is as timely as ever.