For many of us it was a very sad day when the Harry Potter films wrapped up. Thankfully there have been sparks of the wizarding world igniting throughout the world ever since. Fans have been able to flock to the Harry Potter theme parks getting their chance to experience the world of Hogwarts, Hogsmeade and even Diagon Alley. We’ve even managed to stay on life support with the addition of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child book (and play for those lucky enough to catch it). J.K. Rowling has opened the minds and hearts of millions of people all over the world and of every age. Harry Potter is something that both children and children at heart can connect to, something that transcends social boundaries and becomes a topic and meeting place for friends of any age, race or identity.
Fantastic Beasts is a prequel series set in America, opening up a new chapter and a new adventure. For those who follow Rowling’s writings, we were introduced to different wizarding schools opening our minds to the existence of more than just Hogwarts. Although the school itself is only mentioned in passing, Fantastic Beasts brings back the wonderful and familiar magic from the Potter films, but with the very obvious addition of some fantastic beasts. The Harry Potter series introduced us to a variety of magical creatures, but Fantastic Beasts easily blows that out of the water with the introduction of more beasts than all the prior films combined. Now please lower your wands, for what I am about to tell you may upset you, but I have yet to get my hands on anything Fantastic Beasts related so I have not read any scripts or seen any books or pictures. I would imagine that many of the creatures depicted in the book are portrayed in the film, but for me they were all new. Without the knowledge of what exactly is in that book, creating these creatures was a very tricky endeavour boarding on fantastical and far out. As usual though, Rowling and the creative team have managed to walk this line effortlessly making the start of something great.
Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is a magizoologist arriving in New York with a suitcase full of magical creatures. The film is set in the 1920’s where the wizarding world of the America’s is at it’s utmost turbulent experiencing bans on the harbouring and breeding of magic creatures and the discovery of the magical world by the Nomagj’s (No Magics = Muggles). The series begins with it’s own Voldemort, if you will, seen attacking a castle in Europe and killing a handful of wizards in a flash. His identity remains a mystery, only glimpsing his head from behind. The newspapers report the man’s attacks and the cry for his capture, putting a name to our villain of Gellert Grindelwald.
Newt comes upon a rally of a religious group trying to spread the word that witches live among us and they must be captured and destroyed. During the rally, a magical creature known as Niffler, a cute mole-like creature with a love of shinny things, escapes from his suitcase and he sets off after the creature to capture it. Former Auror, Tina Goldstein, follows them both hoping to capture them and gain recognition from those at the american ministry of magic. After following Niffler to a bank, Newt runs into a Nomaj and after some serious magical violations, the two manage to mix up their briefcases. It isn’t until later, in the hands of the ministry, that the contents of Newt’s briefcase are discovered to be missing. With a mysterious creature causing havoc throughout the city, Newt and his creatures becomes the number one suspect. Newt must capture all his lost creatures and return them to his briefcase in his hopes to prove that his creatures are not dangerous and to spread the knowledge throughout the wizarding community. With the help of the Goldstein sisters, Portentina “Tina” (Katherine Waterston) and Queenie (Alison Sudol) and Nomaj Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), they must return the creatures to the briefcase and try to solve the mystery of the destructive creature.
Fantastic Beasts appears to cater to a more adult audience with many dark elements and a cast consisting almost entirely of adults which is a big change from a series full of children. There are also some well known and familiar actors and actresses starring in our first film, where as many of our Harry Potter characters were relatively unknown children who grew to become superstars over the years. It is not hard to believe many actors and actresses didn’t jump at the chance to star in this movie and many more will get their chance with the announcement that the Fantastic Beasts film will become a five part series.
Eddie Redmayne adds an element of awkwardness and charm to our main character, which is very suited to our house of Hufflepuff character, Newt Scamander. I absolutely adored him in this role and I cannot wait for the rest of the films. It is obvious who our main characters will be in the series, but the direction of the series is very much a secret at this time. The character of Queenie Goldstein is reminiscent to that of Luna Lovegood as she has the ability to read people’s minds and a bit of an odd personality because of this. She is a beautiful witch and oozes that 20’s charm and grace which easily wins the heart of our Nomaj, Jacob Kowalski. Kowalski becomes a bit of a sidekick during the film and a source of much of the comic relief. Tina will be a staple character in the films, but I must admit that she didn’t win me over as easily as some of the other characters. It may be the sour taste that she leaves in our mouths after trying to arrest poor Newt for her own benefit, but she spends so much time chasing her career and doing whatever is necessary, that her character is hidden behind this wall and we don’t get a true look at who she is and what she is to become.
As easy as it is to try to compare the film to the Harry Potter series, I implore you to have an open mind and treat it as an entirely new adventure and enjoy any similarities and pops of nostalgia that may remind you of the Harry Potter films. Fantastic Beasts was a great starting point for what is going to become another amazing and very profitable venture for Rowling and fans of the wizarding world couldn’t be happier.