The draw to go back to the world of Harry Potter is a strong one. I’ve always thought author JK Rowling would produce more Potter material for movies, I just never thought she’d open that door using a character that is more or less mentioned in passing.
Fantastic Beasts is about writer and magic zoologist Newt Scamander’s (Eddie Redmayne) trip to New York City in the 1920’s. Newt is an eccentric man with a love and respect for every kind of animal you can imagine. His life mission is to study and share his findings of the magical animal kingdom.
He enters New York during a trying time for the magical community. A magical creature is terrorizing the locals and threatens to expose the magic citizens in a largely No-Maj (the American term for Muggle) city. The magic government officials are up to their eyeballs trying to fix the problem and here comes a guy with a broken suitcase that lets out more trouble. While Newt scrambles to gather his escaped critters, he finds himself on the frontlines of identifying and stopping the creature that is running amok in the city.
Fantastic Beasts is classic JK Rowling. She goes back in time to let more creative and loveable characters loose to make friends and get into trouble with a twist or two at the end for good measure. A strong central character with morals, the comic relief sidekick, the strong-willed but often dismissed hero in training, the monster in the dark and the red herring are all here.
There’s a lot of Harry Potter canon at play. Rowling uses the rise of the wizard Grindelwald (Voldemort’s precursor of evil) as the immediate backdrop. This places the story in a time of great interest and possible expansion of the Potter universe. The Halfblood Prince (and some of Deathly Hollows) gave fans the biggest insight into how Potter history started, how Albus Dumbledore got to where he was when Harry got to Hogwarts. Grindelwald was a major part of Dumbledore’s life and set the path for Tom Riddle to become Lord Voldemort and try to take over the Wizard world with his own dark agenda. Aside from the obvious ties to the franchise, there’s quite a few easter eggs for sharp-eyed fans to find.
One thing I appreciated on this new Potterverse tale is that everyone is an adult. There’s no learning to be done. The rules of magic are well established and they’re all accomplished wizards so its spells galore. The final act had a really impressive action sequence that only the later Potter movies made it to.
Overall, I think Fantastic Beasts is a successful movie. Really well cast, characters to care about, good special effects and direction, excellent soundtrack and a great heart that comes through at the end. Newt is very easy to dismiss as simply a weird guy at the start but as Kowalski (our gateway character to this world) spends time with him he opens up as a complex and endearing character. As the movie went on I felt like I was getting to know Newt well. He’s someone who I would honestly want to meet in real life. It’s these kinds of characters that Rowling is so adept at making.
With this new base established, I’m curious and excited to see where Rowling takes it. This could bring us to the point where we get to see Voldemort’s ascension to power, see the original Order of the Phoenix fight back, and get to the fateful night of Harry and his parents. Out of anything Rowling could write, I want this more than anything else.
Exciting stuff for those, like myself, that are inclined to the Potterverse.