J.K. Rowling’s newest masterpiece, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, whisks the audience away into the bustling, alluring New York of 1926. She expands her wizarding world in this Harry Potter prequel. The story centers around Newt Scamander, played by Eddie Redmayne, who in a time where magical creatures are deemed illegal, takes the time to rescue and document these beasts. En route to return one of the animals to its homeland, he stops in New York where they escape, wreaking havoc on both Wizards and No-majs (what American wizards call Muggles).
Katherine Waterston’s Tina Goldstein, a serious employee of the American version of the Ministry of Magic, the Magical Congress, is a compelling foil to Redmayne’s Scamander, who brings a childlike sense of curiosity to the screen. Jacob Kowalski, played by Dan Fogler, brought welcome comedic relief even in the movie’s darkest moments, as the hapless baker who discovers this new angle on the wizarding world along with the audience. It was enthralling to watch the dynamic cast on their quest to recapture the escaped creatures without detection by the Congress, currently in the grips of a McCarthy Era-style, fear-fueled witch hunt, so to speak. Although the film was bubbling with creativity and was quite whimsical, it was teeming with statements on politics.
The movie, however, did have its flaws. I personally found it quite disappointing that this film had no direct connections to the Harry Potter series itself. I, as well as others, expected many “Ahhh so that’s how…” moments, only to watch a film that was more or less self-contained. Fantastic Beasts was choppy at times, switching from the main plot of Newt and company to the frankly dull and uninteresting subplot about Second Salem, a group dedicated to exposing witches. Truthfully, it didn’t add anything to the film besides forty minutes to an already two hour picture, and caused the movie to stray away from its main plot
Generally though, Fantastic Beasts was a delight to watch, replete with charm, enchanting scenery, and, as advertized, fantastical beasts. I found it a welcome rebirth of a cherished favorite, and it may perhaps initiate a new generation of J.K. Rowling fans.
(Copyright 2017 Janice Negvesky)