I’m not the biggest Harry Potter fan myself. I quite enjoyed the books and their film adaptations, mind you, but by the time I had seen the franchise through to its very end, I must admit I had grown a bit tired of its general formula and concept.
It comes as a surprise, then, that Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them managed to rekindle my interest in the wizarding world created by J. K. Rowling. That’s in part because this prequel feels vastly different from the original Harry Potter series, providing an interesting take on the world’s lore and history. It takes familiar premises and developments and handles them in intriguing ways, which allow the movie to stand on its own without relying in the slightest on the entries that came before.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them introduces us to charismatic and slightly awkward Newt Scamander, who is the author of the titular novel within the world of Harry Potter. The movie adaptation delves a lot deeper into the history of this fantastical encyclopedia, infusing an actual story that makes full use of the franchise’s lore. The British mister Scamander travels to America to further his studies of magical creatures, yet his timing couldn’t be more off. An unknown danger plagues the streets of New York in 1926, exposing many No-Mags (the American term for Muggles) to a violent form of magic.
The threat against New York and the uproar caused by Scamander’s escaped beasts kick off this new series, and while these stories on their own are quite enjoyable, I occasionally found them to be a tad confusing when then worked in conjunction with one another. One moment, we’re following Percival Graves on his personal quest to uncover the magic that wreaks havoc in New York, whereas the very next scene may further the plot about Newt Scamander and his history at Hogwarts. These are quite similar in terms of overal execution and the way they intertwine may sometimes have you frowning, attempting to make out whether these characters are discussing events related to the New York incidents or the loose creatures.
Luckily, all these characters we see on screen are brought to life in a phenomenal manner. Excellent performances and stellar screenwriting from Rowling herself give this cast a noteworthy place within the world of magic, and I for one cannot wait to see where this main story line may lead. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them uses a few familiar methods to further the plot, but frequently puts a twist on them that made its twists and developments feel fresh and effective.
As was the case with the original Harry Potter series, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is at its best when it gets a bit darker with its tone. There are some genuinely unsettling instances here that foreshadow both the impending evil for this series, as well as the story explored in the main Harry Potter films. For every ominous moment, however, there is a lighthearted one, allowing you to take in the wonderfully weird wizardry J. K. Rowling is known for. Even after eight movies, they somehow managed to find more ways to showcase magic in unique and mesmerizing ways. Its titular beasts are usually the highlights of these moments, but there are other instances of sheer awe that’ll make you reminisce of the original franchise.
What makes Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them so great, however, is how phenomenally it balances its tones. Constantly switching between the darker undertone of the bigger picture and the beautiful lightness drive this films forward, fully utilizing its two hours to tell an alluring story that craves your constant attention, both visually and otherwise.
Despite the slight Potter fatigue that may have affected some, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them provides an interesting, more fleshed out interpretation of the book of the same name, and welcomes fans and newcomers alike to revisit the wizarding world of J. K. Rowling. It has a vastly different feeling compared to the original Harry Potter series, with recognizable moments of lighthearted wonder and ominous darkness complementing each other better than ever before, effortlessly juggling with its tone to keep the movie flowing in an effective way despite the intertwining story lines leading to some confusion. Add to that the incredibly likable persona of Newt Scamander and an intriguing cast of supporting characters, and you’ve got one of the most entertaining, well-structured films of 2016.