Even though we supposedly visited The Wizarding World for the last time in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 in 2011, I think all the Potterheads knew they would once again relive the magic in some form. Amusement Parks like Universal Orlando only grew the popularity of the franchise building two major attractions based on the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and each year new generations are exposed to the books and movies. There was no way Warner Bros., J.K. Rowling and the die-hard fans around the globe were going to let all the mythology they created lay dormant.
Enter Newt Scamander, our new heroic wizard played by Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne in the totally original Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them written for the screen by J.K. Rowling and directed by David Yates. Fantastic Beasts is not a direct spinoff from the Harry Potter franchise, but rather a prequel set in New York City during 1926. This is something all new for the franchise since the original story took place primarily in England at Hogwarts where Mr. Scamander was once a student. Don’t worry Potter peeps, even though this takes place in the states there are still name drops of familiar figures to get you all giddy. Newt has come to America with a magical briefcase full of creatures and wouldn’t you know it. Some of these beasts get loose, which upsets the American Wizarding community who spend their time hiding in the shadows from Muggles or No-Maj as the Yankees call them.
What’s great about Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is it manages to feel fresh without relying on the former franchise to drive the new story. There are Potter Easter Eggs sprinkled throughout the film to get excited about, but there are plenty of other new aspects of this franchise starter that will gain the interest from loyal followers. First off the idea of a prequel (especially one written directly for the big screen) is a great idea, because we don’t know much about the past in the Wizarding World other than the tall tales told by the teachers and students in the other films. This leaves a wide open world of mythology to work with allowing some of the Harry Potter DNA to be present, but giving the audience something they’ve never seen before.
The setting of America also brings a twist on the world of magic since they do things much different in the states than Newt is accustomed to across the pond. Yates brings to life 1920s New York in glamorous fashion with Ford Model Ts cruising the streets, dapper wardrobes and a skyline which was still growing in its infancy. Adding these new elements allows newcomers not to feel lost in the franchise, yet still gives fans connections to the original series that will have them excited as to what’s to come in future installments. This is a new experience for everyone who sees this, so don’t avoid Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them just because you haven’t read the other books or seen the movies. You will be just fine when it comes to understanding what’s going on.
The time and place were wise decisions creating a new franchise based on the previous work, but just like in the previous films Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is related too, casting is the key and this film does not disappoint. Eddie Redmayne fits right in as the quirky wizard known to bend the rules from time to time. Also adding a muggle into the mix in the form of Jacob Kowalski played by Dan Fogler is a welcome addition to the story. Our wizard muggle interaction was at a minimum in the prior franchise, so it’s a lot of fun to see a No-Maj wide-eyed with amazement at the magic taking place around him. Katherine Waterston, Colin Farrell and Erza Miller round out the strong cast and a big appearance at the end will have you thrilled as to what is to come in the future for this new series.
Overall, I give Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 3 out of 4 stars.
Read all T.M.’s reviews here–>Entertainment Now with T.M. Powell