I’m not quite sure what to make of this newest cinematic expansion of the Wizarding World. In one part, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them feels like a kid’s movie with its majestic use of magic. In another part, its marketing and rating suggests a teen movie. Yet at the same time, its 1920s setting and cast of adult characters suggests something that would appeal best to those who grew up with the original Harry Potter adventures. Well one thing is for sure, this new adaptation by the immortal J.K. Rowling could still appeal to them all in some way or another.
True to what the world of Harry Potter has always done, this historical setting is rich with culture. It turns out that unlike the United Kingdom, America has a different word for muggles; “No-Mags,” and their relationships align much closer to the Salem witch trials than simple racism. The two worlds between the wizards and No-Mags’ each look as captivating as they do true to the historical era, complete with a scandalous goblin singing at a bar.
Then in comes skimpy old Newt Scamander, played by British actor Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl, The Theory of Everything). He arrives in New York City on the Fort Elizabeth, with a secret mission involving his magical briefcase. Just step inside his case, and you will see an immense world inside: room upon room housing some of the most fascinating beasts you will find. These include leafy little bowtruckles, a money-mad niffler, a mischievous demiguise, and a size-shifting occamy. Kids and adults alike will love seeing these imaginative designs rich with character.
These beasts have ended up under the hands of a No-Mag named Mr. Kowalski who has dreams of starting his own bakery. Yet he mistakenly lets the case open, and several of the beasts loose into the city. Now Newt has to bring him as a witness to protect his innocence from the National Astute of Secrecy, or else face serious criminal penalty for exposing the wizarding community to the No-Mags. It's a delightful scenario with high stakes, one you don't have to be a longtime Harry Potter fanatic to appreciate.
There are points here and there that make this feel like a great movie, but for the greater portion, the blank performances by the ensemble cast send a preposterous message that says the law and government should not control us. If you ask me, these negative, limiting depictions of political authorities is way too common in our movie theaters, and our leaders deserve better treatment. But credit should be given where it's due: the fictional government here is rich with well-thought out detail, you could legitimately believe that this existed at some point in history and continues to influence us to this day.
The buildup throughout the first hour and forty-five minutes could have had a tremendous payoff, but in this case, the final moments try to emotionally manipulate you through the main characters' bond as if the filmmakers felt that they earned it somehow—they didn’t. I'm sorry, but the mixture of 1920's New York with the Salem Witch Trials was far better planned out than the four lead protagonists we had to resonate with. Between Newt, Kowalski, and the two Goldstein sisters, you relate to them by personality, not by what they think of one another.
If you think that Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a dream come true for your inner witch or wizard, maybe it could be, but perhaps not. On one hand, it is still as beautifully detailed as we remember the books and movies of our favorite wizard, and the historical setting grows our appreciation of both fantasy and reality. Then again, for some Harry Potter fans such as myself, this may come off as too far from the franchise in tone and message to truly resonate. It could better yet be one of those you like more the second time around.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Warner Bros. Web. <http://www.fantasticbeasts.com/>.
Justin. #FantasticBeasts: Meet The 6 Magical Creatures In The “Harry Potter” Prequel. Hype. VIJANDREN RAMADASS, 15 Aug 2016. Web. <https://hype.my/2016/117408/fantasticbeasts-meet-the-magical-creatures-in-harry-potter-prequel/>.
Lindley, Courtney. The New 'Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them' Trailer Raises The Stakes To A New High And Leaves Us With Even More Questions — VIDEO. Digital image. Bustle. BDG Media, 13 Oct 2016. Web. <https://www.bustle.com/articles/189557-the-new-fantastic-beasts-where-to-find-them-trailer-raises-the-stakes-to-a-new>.