Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Best Harry Potter Film?
If you haven’t guessed it yet, the Harry Potter franchise is here to stay. It arrived with books, which were then adapted into eight films. Universal got the rights and made the films reality creative ground breaking lands at their theme parks around the world. J.K. Rowling even created Pottermore to help fans delve deeper into the wizarding universe. But fans always want more, and J.K. Rowling delivered with Fantastic Beasts – a brand new movie series revolving around Newt Scamander, the author of the book the movie is named after which is used in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
In this first film of what we now know will be five, we’re introduced to Newt Scamander in 1926 who is traveling from England to America with a ‘suitcase’ full of magical creatures. His main purpose for visiting is to meet up with a famous magic creature breeder. However, due to America’s strict wizarding laws magical creatures are forbidden. But it doesn’t take long for chaos to ensue as one of his creatures sneaks out of his suitcase. While Newt tries to chase him down, he invariably involves a “No-Maj” (American term for Muggles) named Jacob Kowalski, played by the ever likeable Dan Fogler. To make matters worse (and predictable), they accidentally switch suitcases which of course leads to more magic creatures escaping. Meanwhile, Scamander caught the attention of an ex-Auror named Tina Goldstein, played by Katherine Waterson. She of course attempts to arrest him but is quickly dismissed by MACUSA (The Magical Congress of the United States of America) due to reasons we find out later.
During all of these events, there is an unrest in America thanks to disasters caused by a dark wizard named Gellert Grindelwald, who we now know will be played in the sequel by Johnny Depp. Tensions are growing between the No-Maj and wizarding world. Protests and voices speaking out against wizardry are growing in numbers, mainly being led by Mary Lou Barebone and her adopted children, the eldest, Credence Barebone, is played by Ezra Miller. Meanwhile, a Senior Auror named Percival Graves, played by Colin Ferrell, is searching for a gifted child for reasons unclear. All of these events lead to an extraordinary climax and an ending which teases of what’s to come in this new series.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them pretty much does for the Harry Potter universe what we hope the solo Star Wars films will do for that universe. It gives us brand new characters while expanding on familiar things we already know. The film references Hogwarts and even Dumbledore, but this is definitely not a Harry Potter film. We learn about magical creatures, new spells, and most importantly, we delve into the wizarding world in America.
Now, I’m not a die hard Harry Potter fan. I love the books and films (and especially the lands at Universal), but I always have trouble remembering smaller details and characters. Hell, I hardly remember reading about Grindelwald in the books. So for me, watching this movie was very reminiscent of when I saw the very first Harry Potter film back in 2001, which I saw before reading any of the books. I was able to sit back and be swept away into the wizarding world, without having to compare it to any book I’d read previously, and just enjoy the story I was being told.
Fantastic Beasts was directed by David Yates, who helmed the last four Harry Potter films, and is also scheduled to direct all of the Fantastic Beast films. The film, while a linear storyline, is one of the more complex ones due to containing multiple stories at once and Yates does an exceptional job at balancing each of them. None seem to take up more screen time than the other.
The film was also cast perfectly. Eddie Redmayne is quickly becoming one of my favorite actors, though I am starting to worry he is a one trick pony with his style/characterization. Colin Ferrell plays a devious character incredibly well, as you can never quite tell what he’s up to or why, creating a lot of suspicion about him. And Dan Fogler, an actor I’ve always enjoyed watching in whatever he’s been in, really shines in this film. I’m very happy to finally see him in a major role. Hopefully he’ll return in the sequels because his character is definitely an audience favorite. Katherine Waterson as Tina was enjoyable enough, but I truly hope her character grows. The most unfortunate part, though, was Ezra Miller who was wildly underused. While he is an actor who hasn’t been in much, I feel he is very talented and has a lot to offer.
I’ll admit that while I whole-heartedly enjoyed this film, there are some I’ve talked to (huge Hp fans) who felt more underwhelmed by it. So it’s clear the franchise has plenty room to grow. These are characters we definitely can learn more about, and there are many more we need to meet. Plus, I can’t wait to learn even more about the wizarding world in America, or perhaps other countries if these adventures take us around the world as well.
For me, I found few flaws in the film and think were off to a great start. The film is funny, adventurous, creative, unique, and interesting. I think it’s one of the better films of 2016 and anyone who is a Harry Potter fan should definitely give it a chance, even if, perhaps, it may not interest you at first because I promise you, it will tie in to the books more and more as time goes on.