The Harry Potter spin-off, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them hit theatres this week. Can this movie fill the void of Potter fans after the end of the main series? Read on to find out!
J.K. Rowling created one of the most popular series of books of all time when she created the Harry Potter series. That series went on to span 7 books, 8 movies, a theatrical production, and countless other things. It was the first book series that I really remember enjoying and wanting to finish. The series captivated people with its imaginative characters and descriptive conflicts. Harry Potter became a pop-culture phenomenon that hasn’t slowed down to this day.
The most incredible thing about the Harry Potter universe is that it has so much in it that hasn’t been explored yet. There could be a whole new series from different characters and different perspective or even different time periods. J.K. Rowling did explore a different part of the world with her 2001 book, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The main series had introduced so many creatures that it was an obvious choice to write a book about them. The book itself was more of an informational textbook about the various creatures in the Harry Potter universe, but the film centers around Magizoologist Newt Scamander, the author of Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them.
The film is set in 1926 in New York. There is no Hogwarts, this one is set in America and the focal point of the entire Harry Potter franchise is only mentioned a few times in passing. In America, things are different. One of the big differences is that “Muggles” are called “No-Majs”. If a No-Maj manages to see a magical creature, their memory gets wiped. If this sounds like Men in Black to you, you’re not alone. It’s all a part of keeping the magic side of things under wraps.
When Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) goes into the bank to request a loan, he gets far more when he bargained for. Newt (Eddie Redmayne) and Jacob end up swapping suitcases accidentally and that’s when some creatures get loose and generate the main conflict of the story. Newt’s suitcase is actually a portable magical zoo. It comes complete with its own muggle setting to make it look normal when being inspected at customs.
Fogler and Redmayne are joined on screen by Tina Goldstein (Katharine Waterston), a former Auror for the Magical Congress. She finds out what Scamander is up to and tries to turn him. They’re also joined by Tina’s sister, Queenie (Alison Sudol). Queenie is a mind-reader which tends to get her into some trouble here and there. Colin Ferrell makes an appearance as Percival Graves, a high-ranking Auror for the Magical Congress. Johnny Depp also makes an appearance in a prominent role later in the movie.
The main plot centers around the creatures being loose in New York and having to be captured so that the magic world is not exposed. That’s not the only worry, though, as dark forces are at work throughout the city. These forces make Newt look like he unleashed a killer beast. It certainly takes the Harry Potter approach of making you expect one thing and then having something come completely out of left field. Tina, Queenie, Newt, and Jacob end up having to work together to find the escaped creatures and to clear their own names before it’s too late.
I personally loved the interaction between the characters. Everyone played their role so well. Eddie Redmayne, in particular, did a great job of portraying the shy, Newt character. He really made you feel how much love he had for all of those beasts in the suitcase and how much it meant to them. Dan Fogler was equally as good in his supporting role being mesmerized by these magical creatures that he’s never seen before. Alison Sudol and Katherine Waterston also provided some variety with their polar opposite characters. Everyone just fit in the world so wonderfully.
The creatures themselves were magnificent to see on screen. From the ever-elusive Niffler (platypus-like creature) stealing the jewelry to the Erumpment (rhino-like creature) charging through Central Park, each beast breathed so much life into the film. My favourite, in particular, had to be the Thunderbird which was a majestic bird that could create storms with its wings. If you haven’t checked this one out in 3D, I think you need to go back and check it out. It was one of the best 3D movies I’ve been to. Everything pops off the screen and it really makes you feel like you’re in a fantasy world.
Fantastic Beasts does a great job of living up to the Harry Potter series while standing on its own. It would have been easy to create a similar story and have similar characters and use this as a cash grab, but they didn’t do that. They chose to make this movie as different as possible while still retaining the lore of the Harry Potter universe. This is the first of 5 films and this one went along way to establishing what we can expect from the rest of this series. I would recommend this film to people of all ages.