How do you make Harry Potter fans go crazy? Introduce a trilogy with new characters, wild magical creatures and non-stop references to the world we loved. J.K. Rowling wrote the screenplay for the first Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and it was nothing like I expected: it was better.
While there are some parallels between what we know of the wizarding world and what we get with this movie, most of it’s new. Wizards and witches still fear being exposed to the muggle world, but now it’s the “no-maj” world because Americans always have do things differently. There’s the fear of magical creatures, although it’s a lot more widespread than in the future classes that Hagrid teaches out of the Forbidden Forest.
It’s the Roaring Twenties and the movie starts with Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), a hysterically awkward wizard who will later write the famous textbook “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” traveling to New York with a case of magical creatures that eventually escape.
Newt is a different type of hero than we are used to. Harry Potter, while going through some awkward phases throughout his seven years, was often brave and outgoing. Newt on the other hand, while obviously brilliant, is not the best with people. Redmayne was excellent at making the audience see his uncomfortableness in every scene.
The creatures make for a funny and interesting plot. Throughout the Harry Potter franchise, we witnessed creatures like the Basilisk and Hippogriff, but in this film we experience a whole case-full of new creatures. My favorite was a Niffler, a rodent-looking creature that has a pouch like a kangaroo that holds as many shiny things this creature can find, similar to Hermione’s spacious bag in the final book.
The Niffler is what actually leads to the creatures escape. Without giving away too much, I’ll say that’s all because of Newt chasing after the Niffler, a little bit of exposed magic and an accidental switching of cases. Either it was really lucky or unlucky, I will leave that up to you, for Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), to decide to apply for a loan on the very day Newt came to New York. Jacob was the first “no-maj” ever developed into a main character in the wizarding world. While we saw how the Dursley’s reacted to magic, this time we see it up close and personal.
Jacob and Newt’s experiences in this movie mimic our own. Newt is a wizard who is experiencing a new magical culture, and Jacob is simply experiencing everything new. While we do know some of the wizarding world, this movie introduces things that haven’t even been hinted at before. The audience is new to the adult world of magic and how people interact with magic in the normal world rather than a giant school in the middle of nowhere.
As the movie progresses, we learn there’s more to the series than finding missing creatures, which was somewhat obvious because how is a trilogy going to work with just a plot line of finding creatures? Rowling is better than that. The main plot line, as it turns out, involves a lot more of the history of magic than we know. The villain, whom you could pick out pretty early, isn’t exactly who you thought they were. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them set the stage for a very interesting sequel, that may even including one of our favorite professors.
While the movie wasn’t perfect, it was far better than I expected: I couldn’t picture how this spin-off would make a movie worthy of the Harry Potter world. But I walked out of the theater feeling the intense need for the next film; hopefully Warner Bros. doesn’t linger too long.
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