By Justin Huang and Jordan Liu, Web Editors
In our world, endangered species are a cause for concern, and they must be protected from harm lest they disappear altogether. In an act of kindness, some people have banded together to defend animal rights. Add some magic with that, and you get magizoologist Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
As the first of five new Harry Potter prequels, the story follows Scamander, played by Eddie Redmayne, as he ventures into the American wizarding world with a briefcase full of magical creatures (it’s bigger on the inside). A No-Maj (no-magic, or a Muggle, if you’re British) named Jacob Kowalski, played by Dan Fogler, accidently opens the briefcase and causes the creatures inside to stage an escape. Scamander and Kowalski attempt to recover all the creatures, along with ex-Auror Porpentina Goldstein, played by Katherine Waterson, and her sister Queenie, played by Alison Sudol. However, their search leads them to a darker secret possibly tied with the notorious Grindelwald.
Walking in the theater, my expectations were to experience the nostalgia of the Harry Potter movies and witness the amazing design behind the creatures. Bonus points if the storyline was entertaining. Afterwards, I felt like the movie beat my expectations, including a well-paced plot, and even incorporated elements that I didn’t expect to be there.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them doesn’t feel like Harry Potter movie, but that isn’t bad, considering how it introduced a new world of magic. Instead of the Ministry of Magic, we get the Macusa, or the Magical Congress of the United States of America. Instead of Hogwarts, we get a passing mention of Ilvermorny, the American wizarding school. No, this movie doesn’t have a nostalgic feel to it because it gives us new elements that were never shown in the original Harry Potter movies. But that’s amazing in its own right, because learning new things from an original story by J.K. Rowling is also exciting. Director David Yates, who also directed the last four Harry Potter movies, delivers a nice balance of familiar Potter references and new elements.
The magical beasts in the movie are designed just as fantastically as you would expect. They’re creative, beautiful, and even majestic. After being a Potter fan for all these years, the inside of Scamander’s briefcase contained everything that my imagination could wish for. What I didn’t expect was the personality put behind the creatures. The niffler has a problem controlling its kleptomania, Pickett the bowtruckle is very fond of Scamander, and Dougal the invisible Demiguise tries to protect his friends. Their facial expressions and hilarious antics (especially with the niffler) reflect their personalities and emotions.
On the subject of emotion, this movie has a lot more to offer than I initially thought. I never imagined that I would feel invested in any of the characters, but I was. Scamander’s humanitarian goal to protect magical creatures from being hunted by the wizarding world is heartwarming, but the real player is Kowalski. He learns about a new world previous hidden from his sight, and his excitement of learning new things about magic is the same as the audience’s. The tear-jerking ending is the most emotional part of the movie because it laughs at your investment in the characters, but still ends with a smile. If the waterworks aren’t working on the outside, you’ll be crying on the inside.
While watching the movie, I found two issues besides the occasional plot hole that bothered me. The first thing is the romance in the movie. Unlike Ron and Hermione, who had seven books or eight movies to develop their relationship, this movie’s romance felt forced. Even though the dots weren’t connecting fast enough, the characters still moved from point A to point B. The second thing is the final resolution of the conflict, because it’s convenient to the extreme. Out of nowhere comes a method that wraps everything up quickly, making it look like nothing ever happened to the city.
If you’re looking for a magical movie (maybe even a fantastic one), then Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a perfect choice. With beautiful designs and visual elements, a flowing plot, and plenty of emotion, this movie is one of the best I’ve seen this year. Get some friends or family together and watch it this Thanksgiving break, if you haven’t already.