Yes. It’s that fantastic.
Last week, children and adults alike broke out their old wands and robes and headed to the movies once again to witness the opening of “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” the first of a brand new five movie series written and produced by J.K. Rowling.
The latest addition to Rowling’s colossal franchise opened last week to an audience destined to love it. Since the release of the eighth and final (or so we thought at the time) installment of the Harry Potter movies, fans have been itching for more from the Wizarding World and its creator, J.K. Rowling. The release of her latest book, The Cursed Child, curbed the demand for more information about the later lives of Harry and his friends. But Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them reveals a part of Rowling’s world that Potter fans had not previously been exposed to. Fantastic Beasts takes place 70 years before Harry Potter became “The Chosen One” in an American wizarding community located in the heart of New York City.
Eddie Redmayne stars as Newt Scamander, a Hogwarts alumnus bent on discovering and saving magical creatures from across the globe. He arrives in New York City for a quick stopover on his route with nothing but a worn briefcase and a wand. But pretty quickly, Scamander gets into trouble with the Magical Congress of the U.S.A, headed by their own Madame President, and loses track of a number of his magical creatures (who happen to live in the depths of his magical briefcase). Brushed against a city teeming with anti-witch sentiment, a maniacal wizard on the loose, and a non-mag (the American wizarding community’s term for muggle) who has no business in the wizarding world, Scamander is sent on a wild goose chase throughout 1930s New York City to retrieve his fantastic beasts.
But Fantastic Beasts doesn’t just succeed because of its captivating plot line. The movie has as much action in it as it does heart, most notably in the scenes that feature the hysterically adorable Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), a non-mag who, after a chance run-in with Scamander at the bank, becomes absorbed into the story as well. His genuine fascination with the wizarding world is a delight to watch, his smile contagious, even from the screen.
People with knowledge of the Harry Potter series will delight in seeing Easter-eggs hidden throughout the movie. Mention of certain key names (Dumbledore) and certain crucial symbols (the Deathly Hallows) makes the movie a perfect mix of new and familiar.
That being said, Fantastic Beasts definitely stands alone as a film, independent from the previous Harry Potter movies. Although the purist in me longed for the familiar English accents of the old Potter days, there was something fascinating about watching wizards and witches in America. In addition to their differing lingo, the characters in this movie deal with issues that would never come up in Hogwarts. The witch-hunt frenzy that occupies much of the storyline provides severely dark undertones for the movie and a glimpse into the stigma that enveloped earlier wizards. Fantastic Beasts shies away from the age-old battle of “good” vs. “evil” and instead, explores the gray areas of dark wizards, providing historical justifications for their rise during times when many wizards were suppressed.
Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them is another step in further expanding our knowledge of Rowling’s vast world, and she succeeds yet again in making our lives a little more magical. For Harry Potter fans, fantasy fans, and Eddie Redmayne fans, Fantastic Beasts should be next on your list.