Let’s get this out of the way: if you haven’t seen Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, go do it as soon as you can, because it is a fantastic movie and this article will contain spoilers.
The world of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter has remained barren for some time now. The last movie in Harry’s epic journey, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, was released five years ago, and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is neither a book nor a movie, but a play. With Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the team behind the magic of Hogwarts is back in the movie game, and I can see them staying in the spotlight for a while. The movie was excellently done, with a family friendly story that appeals both to children seeking awe-inducing visuals, and adults seeking their latest fix of a magic-centric movie that does not disappoint.
Set in New York before the time of Harry Potter, Fantastic Beasts follows Newt Scamander as he travels to America in search of magical creatures. Almost immediately after he steps off the boat onto American soil things go south: one of his creatures escapes, a muggle notices his magic, and he is arrested and taken in by the magical version of the FBI. This ultimately culminates into a hunt for his growing number of missing creatures, which gets him further and further tangled into magical politics as New York is ravaged by a sinister force.
The sheer variety of magical creatures alone makes this film worthwhile to watch. Whereas the Harry Potter series featured a few key magical beasts that progressed the plot, Fantastic Beasts exponentially increases that number. From the simple days of hippogriffs, dragons, and centaurs comes a new age of animals I can’t even fully describe: a young sapling that picks locks, a bird with two sets of wings and talons, a giant hippo that sets things on fire, the list goes on. They are all beautifully animated, with clear personalities and an almost-believable realism that makes me wonder if maybe they do exist after all.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them features a diverse and relatable cast, which strives to make everyone watching relate with one of the cast members. Newt himself is a stereotypical nerdy hero, full of quirks and attitude, yet with a heart of gold that tries to do the right thing on his own moral compass. Jacob Kowalski, the muggle who is thrown into the world of magic without much say in the matter, is a “lovable idiot” and watching his struggles and triumphs serves as its own experience within the film. Rounding out the cast are the Goldstein sisters: Tina, the demoted Auror, who strives for redemption and justice, and Queenie, whose fascination with the muggle world draws her closer to Jacob. Each character has his or her flaws that are explored and overcome throughout the film.
In short, J. K. Rowling creates a new world within the Harry Potter universe that is worthy of carrying the torch. I’m eagerly awaiting the new Fantastic Beasts movie. I cannot wait to see where Newt Scamander’s travels take him.