If there’s one thing that “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” accomplished rather fantastically, it was demonstrating that there is more to the Harry Potter universe than the Boy Who Lived. The world can be expanded successfully and still remain magical even without the young wizard that most of the franchise’s target audience grew up with.
The adventures of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), our new protagonist, and his peculiar group of friends during the Roaring Twenties in New York are distinctly different to the ones in which Harry, Hermione and Ron found themselves in Great Britain during the ‘90s and early ‘00s — yet they are just as exciting and sometimes even darker.
That’s not to say that the film is perfect, of course. With a script penned by J.K. Rowling herself (her screenplay debut), the expectation was that the multiple person perspective could be handled more seamlessly, but instead it came out rather dispersed.
There are too many plot points going on at any given moment. Newt looking for his missing beasts should be the focal point, but there’s also a sect of magic-fearing protesters trying to expose every witch they can get their hands on while also adopting by force the children of the wizards they expose. Also, there’s an unsettling predatory relationship between the son of the protestors’ leader and MACUSA’s (the American Ministry of Magic) chief Auror. There’s even the imminent threat of the very powerful dark wizard Gelled Grindelwald. For a Harry Potter superfan, it might be entertaining and thrilling, but for anyone else, it sets a frantic pace that at times is hard to follow.
Yes, the movie has its flaws. However, as the prequel to one of the most beloved book and film series of the past century, it was set to be highly scrutinized. After it was announced that the franchise will consist of five movies before the first one was even released, it’s understandable that there are several plotlines left unexplained — allowing Rowling to start the process of world-building.
The cast is great, but Eddie Redmayne is simply too lovable in his starring role as Newt Scamander. You can’t help but empathize with him and become invested in his quest, especially when we get to see him interacting with his fantastical creatures— or the very best CGI that a $180 million budget can buy. It’s really interesting to watch his character try, and sometimes fail, to connect with people while he’s so capable of understanding his creatures.
So much does he love the beasts that he later publishes a book with the intention of educating wizards and witches about them and their harmless nature. The book calls for understanding and tolerance, the same message of the movie, and is consequently called, well, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” — a required text for Harry Potter and his fellow Hogwarts students.
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” is a strong start for the new film series— leaving fans guessing where Newt and company are off to next. A yet-to-be cast young Dumbledore is expected, but not much else is known. For fans everywhere, the countdown for the next movie has already started.