Movie Review – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

The sensation that was the Harry Potter series may have ended nearly a decade ago, but that doesn’t mean the author was finished telling stories in the story world.  Enter the story of Newt Scamander, who penned one of the student’s text books, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.  It was a book that detailed things about magical creatures to help educate young witches and wizards about them.

But this movie is all about Newt and his case full of creatures, and his adventures with a muggle he happens to meet when he goes to America.  And it is truly fantastic.

fantastic-beasts-and-where-to-find-them

I was excited to see this movie when it was first announced.  More stuff in the world of Harry Potter?  Clearly it was going to be great.  Double because it has to do with magical creatures which is one thing I’m personally interested in.  Now I, unlike most other Harry Potter fans, didn’t get into the series until I was 19 so I didn’t have a childhood connection with it like so many others did.  It still felt new and fresh in my mind.  That’s why seeing this now was so exciting to me.  Although apparently some others felt a little differently as I kept seeing people say things along the lines of “this is just a cash in on an old franchise and they shouldn’t keep milking it, just let it die already.”  While I get that mentality, I can say with absolute certainty that this is not a cash grab, and in fact it doesn’t even feel all that much like Harry Potter.

What do I mean by that?  Well, it seemed many went in with a specific expectation that this movie was “another Harry Potter movie”, some going so far as to say it was a prequel.  First of all it most certainly is not a prequel as it has no characters from the original stories and it takes place back in 1926, before Tom Riddle/Voldemort is ever even born.  There are mentions of things from the original stories, such as Hogwarts and Dumbledore, and there’s a storyline that was hinted at in the original stories – about the rogue wizard Grindlewald – but other than just a couple nods, this feels like its own thing.  Plus there’s the whole being set in the 20’s and in America as opposed to England thing, though Newt Scamander, our main character, is from England himself.

So just what is the story of this film?  Well, Newt comes to America with a briefcase full of what we can only imagine to be magical creatures.  He wanders the streets of New York for a time, seeing that there are some strange things going on, and then he realizes that one of his creatures has escaped.  In his rush to catch it, he meets a muggle (or as they call them in America, no-maj) who is just trying to open up a bakery so he can get out of a terrible factory job.  Things go awry for the both of them and soon they get wrapped up in bigger problems than they could ever have imagined.

Some people have said the plot of this movie is bad or even non-existent.  I would disagree with that.  Was it some great big amazing plot like we remember from the Harry Potter series?  No, but it really doesn’t need to be, does it?  Like I said before, this isn’t Harry Potter, this is a brand new story with all new characters just set in the same story world.  And honestly, the story world is the best part of the HP series as a whole, according to many people, myself included.

But really, the thing I loved the most about this movie was the fantastic beasts, of course, followed by the characters and the relationships they have with each other.  Newt and the muggle he meets, Jacob Kawalski, are just great together and I was really so happy to see a muggle as a main character when the only muggles we ever saw in HP were Harry’s aunt, uncle, and cousin, and they were horrible.  Kawalski is great, though, and I adored him.

The thing I loved the most is that this movie gave me a sense of wonder and magic that I haven’t felt in a long time, and I’m not sure I ever really even felt it with any of the Harry Potter movies.  I think that’s due to the fact that with Harry Potter, we’re seeing everything through the eyes of children, of students who are learning all about magic and how to use it.  This one is through the eyes of adults – both Newt and Jacob – who are seeing these great, amazing, fantastic creatures the likes of which you’ve never dreamed of, and it just opens your eyes up to the wonder of the world.

Even if you’re not a Harry Potter fan, you can enjoy this movie for what it is: a piece of magic.  And if you are a Harry Potter fan, I urge you to go and see this movie, because it most definitely does live up to its name.

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