It’s been five years since the last Harry Potter movie, and nine years since the last main series book was published. Is it really a surprise “Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them” opened at number one and made $75 million on its first weekend?
“I didn’t know how much I wanted another ‘Harry Potter’ until I heard the old theme play,” Addy Coldren, ’17, said.
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” is a prequel to the popular “Harry Potter” franchise. Instead of taking place at Hogwarts and following a trio of teens fighting the Dark Lord Voldemort, it tells the story of Newt Scamander, a researcher of magical beasts, in 1920s New York.
For the most part, the movie focuses on being its own thing. Outside of the same world, a few references and a spoiler, there’s not a lot of callbacks. This was something that pleasantly surprised me.
With both prequels and spin-offs, there is always a fear the prequels or spin-offs will rely too much on their parent movies instead of being their own thing. And “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” avoids this pitfall fairly well.
The plot is fairly simple. There are magical creatures that need to be recaptured and protected while there is a tension between the magical and muggle worlds. If I have a complaint, it’s in the plot threads that are dropped – clearly for the sequels – but it weakened the movie’s ability to stand alone. The movie also has a number of plot holes that are hard to discuss without spoilers.
The characters all serve their roles well, even if at times they border on cliche. Newt is the eccentric scientist. Tina is the Auror that went too far and is trying to redeem herself. Honestly, Queenie and Jacob are my favorite parts of the movie, mainly because they feel the most unique of the four. Queenie’s mind-reading and bright personality felt really fresh and needed in the movie, and Jacob is incredibly likeable as the normal wrapped up into this.
If there is something to praise on which I have no mixed feelings, it’s the visuals and sound. The soundtrack is pretty good and fitting. It’s really jazzy when it wants to be, and fits into the mood of the roaring ‘20s.
The special effects are great. The magic is bright and interesting to look at. The magical creatures are a little off-looking with the CGI, but they all have such interesting designs that the wonder is enough to ignore it.
Overall, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” is a good movie. What it does well, it does really well. What it struggles with, it does passably. And it does very little that is outright bad.