– Cameron Ironside
In Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the magic of Hogwarts lives on. That’s either a good or bad thing, depending upon your point of view. If you miss the Harry Potter series then you’ll probably really like Fantastic Beasts. The film is akin to an American Hogwarts set in the 1920s. It’s not quite the same, the characters are different but the same formula of magic, arcane treasures and fantastical beasts is present.
Directed by David Yates and written by J. K. Rowling, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a fun ride that has its flaws. In a worthy follow up to Harry Potter, Eddie Redmayne delivers a very solid performance as the Hogwarts wizard Newt Scamander. When he loses a Niffler (one of his beasts) in New York, he is arrested by Auror Tina Goldstein as an unregistered wizard. After his case is dismissed, several more beasts escape from Newt’s magic briefcase, which forms the basis for much of the story.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, is a source book referenced several times throughout the original Harry Potter book series. The fantastical beasts are interesting but surprisingly not so fantastical. An Obscura, a dark parasitic force manifested by young children, wreaks havoc on New York. Newt just happens to carry one in his briefcase, but is it the same one? When the Obscura is discovered, Newt and Tina are arrested and sentenced to death. They manage to escape and meet up with allies Queenie and Jacob as they try to capture the rests of the creatures. When the real traitor is exposed, mayhem is unleashed upon the city.
Protecting the secret world of magic from the Muggles (non-magical humans) is another theme that runs throughout Fantastic Beasts. As Jacob is a muggle, but present throughout much of the magical action, being obliterated (having his mind wiped) is a constant plot device. In the end, it’s up to Newt and his merry band of wizards, fantastical beasts and muggles to save New York from the Obscura’s wrath. The characters save New York but there is a twist. It’s not a completely sad ending though and Rowling shows she has a sympathetic side to her work.
All in all, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is neither a great film nor a bad film. Eight Harry Potter films obviously wasn’t enough for fans of J.K. Rowling – and so here we are with Fantastic Beasts churning through nearly a billion dollars at the box office worldwide. This goes to show the enduring popularity of Rowling’s magical world. What is it about Hogwarts that makes it so enduring? That’s a difficult question to answer. After all, it’s not exactly new. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, undoubtedly inspirations for Rowling, also cleaned up at the box office. Perhaps people just really like magic. Certainly, with that kind of success, there are further sequels to come.
Photo credits: New York Daily Times, Warner Bros. Pictures, Trailer Addict