The Harry Potter Universe is one that I was very sad to leave behind. The books are a defining moment on my pathway to becoming a writer. J.K. Rowlings is still an inspiration to me – but this is not Harry Potter. It is an expansion of the world that J.K. Rowling has created, many years before Harry, his parents, and even Voldemort existed. Instead, the audience is treated to some wonderful additions to an already rich lore in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The movie is a blend of fresh ideas mixed with the familiar, allowing newcomers and fans to immerse themselves in a magical world that I’ve definitely missed. With an excellent cast and an invigorating soundtrack, it is a welcome return to the Wizarding World.
Welcome to the United States of America
Our movie begins in 1926 New York City as wizard, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) makes his way through customs. The wizard world is much different in America, and it becomes abundantly clear that Newt is carrying a number of things he shouldn’t. Unfortunately for him, he has a run in with a No-Maj, or muggle to the English Wizards, by the name of Jacob Kowalski. Shenanigans ensue after the two inadvertently switch cases and some of Newt’s magical creatures escape.
Unfortunately for Mr. Kowalski and Newt, this is the worst time for it. It seems that magical beasts are supposedly destroying the No-Maj’s world causing a resurgence in witch hunters and tightened security by the Magical Congress of the USA (MACUSA.) Little do they all know, a much more sinister plot is underway and not everything is as it seems. Together with the help of a demoted Auror, Tina Goldstein, and her sister Queenie, Newt and Jacob must rescue the escaped animals before the MACUSA or other No-Majs find them.
Where to Find Them
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them had a difficult job. It had to be a movie that felt like the Harry Potter series without being it. There had to be a balance between both worlds and the movie does a great job. The film draws it’s audience in with the fantastic 1920s look with a magical twist. The fantasy world melds nicely with the world as we know it. Another exciting addition to the Potter Universe is a look into American Wizardy. Up until now, there wasn’t too much information, but what the movie displays it was very refreshing take on something fans know and love.
Our hero is not a young boy learning magic and facing off against a dark lord. Newt Scamander is already an accomplished wizard and the cast surrounding him is much different than what we’ve seen. The subject matter and the characters manage to remain separate but familiar at the same time. The plot pacing was slow at points, but that allowed for a good foundation for the series to follow.
Unlike other ‘origin’ films, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them does little to explain the characters and their motivations. The audience gets a feel for the characters on their own merit – and the actors bring them to life. Also, though the film is lovely to look at, it doesn’t rely on special effects for a good story; they enhance it. Frankly, the only other complaint I have with the film has to be with the ‘main’ villain, but even then, it’s something the film builds on. It’s clever, there are a few interesting twists, and it is a very enjoyable movie.