Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Synopsis: The adventures of writer Newt Scamander in New York’s secret community of witches and wizards seventy years before Harry Potter reads his book in school.
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for some fantasy action violence
Welcome back, Harry Potter! Well sort of. If you’re expecting just another Harry Potter movie here, you’re going to be disappointed. But if you’re ok with expanding the Harry Potter universe and following a brand new story (well, it ties in to Harry Potter a bit, but it’s mostly new) with all the lovely bells and whistles that made you fall in love with HP in the first place, I think you’re going to enjoy Fantastic Beasts.
One of my favorite things about this movie is it assumes you’ve “been there, done that” when it comes to Harry Potter. It doesn’t take time to explain what the spells are, or why people are waving sticks of wood around, or what Hogwarts is, etc. It just jumps into the story and expects you to know a little something about the Harry Potter universe. Now, sure, it explains new things, like the use of “No-Maj” rather than “Muggle” (REALLY JO? WHY CAN’T WE ALL JUST USE THE WORD MUGGLE?), but it doesn’t hold your hand if you’re a newbie. Sorry. Go watch Harry Potter if you’re confused.
Visually, this movie is glorious. Lots of interesting (shall I even say, Fantastic?) beasts, fun magic (I LOVE THE UMBRELLAS), entertaining new characters, and creepy villains. Not to mention that it takes place in 1920’s New York. We get to see the American equivalent of The Ministry of Magic (seems about as shady as the British version), as well as a rather magical menagerie of animals hidden away in an unobtrusive suitcase.
Plot-wise, I will concede that it felt a bit like a prequel, as much of the movie is Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) chasing his escaped beasts around New York and trying to repair the damage they cause. It seemed as though the main plot (unknown magical creature NOT belonging to Newt is also wreaking havoc around New York) took a bit of a back seat to Newt’s scrambling around town. I wasn’t bothered a bit by this because I found Newt scrambling around to be completely engaging and magical. There was definitely a showdown with a big bad, though I’m not sure how that will be continued in the next however many movies.
Muggle (no-maj, whatever) Jacob Kowalski who just wants to open a bakery and yet somehow gets caught up in all things magical absolutely steals the show and everyone’s hearts as he bumbles around trying to help Newt even though he has no idea what’s happening. Eddie Redmayne is always fun to look at and watch as his face and his acting are both lovely. The two female leads are regrettably fairly forgettable, but they are fine additions to the cast, and certainly don’t detract from my overall opinion of the movie.
In the end, if you’re hoping for a charming and magical romp through New York chasing magical creatures with nothing but Eddie Redmayne, a wand, a magic suitcase, and a hilarious muggle, you’ll love Fantastic Beasts. It’s a highly entertaining time, and I’m very pleased with how it turned out. It may not rival the intricate plot of the SEVEN Harry Potter books put together, but lets be real guys, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is like, 30 pages long. And it’s a bestiary. But you should all read it. And see the movie.