I love the wonderful world of Harry Potter. The books, the movies; I’m all in. So, when I heard about Fantastic Beasts I lost my shit. But was it worth the wait and the overwhelming amount of hype? Let’s find out.
It’s 1926, and ‘Magizoologist’ Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) arrives in New York City to meet with the Magical Congress of the United States of America. Newt’s not alone though. His magical suitcase is the home of a menagerie of wonderful creatures.
We’ve always known that magic exists on a global level, but we’ve only ever been introduced to some Russian and French students. Now we’re thrust into the American Wizarding World. It has its own Ministry (called MACUSA) and its own laws like not fraternising with Muggles known as ‘No-Majs’.
One by one Newts magical beasts escape his grasp and cause havoc around New York. The Magical Congress send the wizarding authorities after Newt as he runs around the city trying to round up his creatures. Along with ‘No-Maj’ Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) and ex-Auror Porpentina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) Newt races against time to save both the Muggle and wizarding from destruction.
The relationship between magic people and ‘No-Majs’ comes under further threat after a mysterious creature starts attacking the city at a rapid rate. Newt soon find himself in the middle of a conflict between the wizarding world and witch-hunters led by Mary Lou Barebone (Samantha Morton) who is like the Muggle version of Dolores Umbridge.
A trip to JK Rowling’s magical universe is always entertaining, but fans should know that this exploration of America’s wizarding world is definitely a more grown-up movie. The witch hunt story line touches on abuse and lingers on the subject far too long for what is supposed to be a magical adventure story. It’s an unnecessary storyline that the movie would still work without.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a solid addition to the Harry Potter franchise but it prioritizes setup over spellbinding action. This means that it’s full of inconsistencies and plot holes. It’s only in the last act that the film soars, like Newt’s glorious thunderbird Frank, into the heavens. I feel like I signed up to go to Lapland but ended up at one of those depressing Grottos in dodgy carpark instead.
The beautifully weird creatures that we meet in this movie set the whole franchise up. Each creature looks and acts distinctively different from one other. With their own quirks, personalities, and humour, you can’t help but fall in love with each and every one of them.
The human leads are equally loveable too. From the quirky Newt Scamander, stern Porpentina Goldstein, to affable sidekick Jacob Kowalski and mindreading Queenie.
So yes, it was worth a trip into the magical universe. There were some parts I really loved, and others not so much. But ultimately Fantastic Beasts is the Phantom Menace of the Harry Potter franchise.
By Ruth Walker