Movie Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
With the latest in the Harry Potter franchise hitting the shelves this week, it seemed only appropriate to write a review for this magical addition. For anyone who is not a Potterhead, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them exists in the world of Harry Potter, but it takes place in 1926, a good 54 years before Harry’s birth. In addition to being in a different time period, it also takes place away from our customary British backdrop. Fantastic Beasts picks up in New York City, where the American wizarding community is vastly different from what we are used to.
In reality, Fantastic Beasts is an entirely different entity altogether. It’s nice to hear some old, familiar spells and a mention of Hogwarts here and there, but after that, we begin to enter into an unknown world that has yet to be touched by Lord Voldemort’s presence. Even without that bigger than life villain, though, things are not as peaceful as you would think. The rules are different, and to be honest, a little alarming. Wizards are not allowed to even befriend non-magical people (No-Majs), and whenever creatures are mentioned, the wizarding community in America always seems to be trying to exterminate them.
So, this is the world that our new protagonist, Newt Scamander, walks into with his case of magical creatures. We know Mr. Scamander as an author of a well-known textbook within the context of Harry’s world in the 1990s, but this is the man before that book is published and printed. He has come with one task in mind: release a beast he rescued back to its original habitat. However, of course, rarely do events go so smoothly. Along the way, animals get out and have to be recovered, and Newt makes some new magical and non-magical acquaintances along the way. They also discover a greater threat in New York outside of Newt’s escaped creatures, which they all must battle together.
While I enjoyed this part of the story, which I found to be engaging and entertaining, I think what struck me most was the world they were establishing outside of this singular incident. From the opening sequence of the film, we find out that Gellert Grindelwald, who we know was a famous dark wizard, has gone missing. We also know that eventually Dumbledore, his former friend, will defeat Grindelwald in a duel in 1945, but that will only happen after circumstances get so bad that they cannot be ignored. Grindelwald has already been causing havoc before his disappearance, and he is setting a dark tone that reverberates throughout the entire wizarding world. He thinks that wizards should not have to hide and should openly rule over those who are non-magical. His mindset is dangerous and spreading, and it is leaving the magical community on its toes. With that backdrop, it’s no surprise that Newt’s escaped animals is not welcome news.
With all of this occurring and the concept of an obscurist/obscurial being introduced and explored, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a nonstop adventure. There are a lot of heartwarming, hilarious, and even terrifying moments along the way, and Eddie Redmayne should have won some kind of award for that scene in the Central Park Zoo. It is his portrayal of Newt that I absolutely love and cannot wait to see more of in the future. He is not your typical protagonist; he’s awkward and quiet and concerned about things that no one else seems concerned with. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is truthfully everything that I hoped this movie would be, and I am already counting down to the coming sequels.
Let us know what you think, though. Did you love this magical adventure as much as Jonathan and I did?