Warner Brothers have just released the new Harry Potter Prequel Fantastic Beasts and Where to find them, which like many prequels released of late, feels like a completely unnecessary addition to the beloved franchise. J.K Rowling (writing her first screenplay) returns to the wizarding world she created almost 20 years ago, this time opening up the world of wizards, setting the first instalment of the series in New York City, Shortly After World War I.
The Story introduces us to magizoologist Newt Scamander as he arrives in America vea New York City, on a research trip for his book about various Fantastic Beasts which make up the wizarding world. Shortly after his arrival he meets former Auror/wizard cop Tina Goldstein and her mind reading sister Queenie. He also meets a no-maj (non-magical person) Jacob Kowalski, an aspiring baker who quickly becomes the most enjoyable character on-screen.
Due to a mix up with Jacob involving the wrong luggage, many of the fantastic beasts in which Newt was traveling with manage to escape from him. Posing a great danger to the citizens of New York and risking already suspicious no-maj’s from finding out about the wizarding community, the group sets out about recapturing Newt’s lost creatures. While the group sets about this adventure together, they never really click together as a group. Characters have some good interactions one-on-one, but never feel as though they become a tight-knit group.
While teleporting around New York City in search of the animals, the group runs afoul of the North American magical authority MACUSA and we learn of a plot involving revered Auror Percival Graves investigating a no-maj family, which includes a troubled and scared young man by the name of Credence. As we begin to see Percival investigate Credence family, the groups hunt for the lost animals begins to grow stale. The more lighthearted story of searching for lost animals clashes with the darker story of the non-maj family becoming more suspicious of the wizarding world existing. The tones and the plots feel very different and not as associated with one another as one would prefer.
While New York City has always been a great setting for wide a wide variety of movies it feels like a wasted opportunity in this film. The characters teleport all across the city to different wizarding buildings and never the iconic places that make New York City so recognizable. For a city that never sleeps there doesn’t seem to be many people until near the end of the movie. The surroundings just feel bland, unlike the recognizable homey castle of Hogwarts.
As per the title, we do see a wide variety of different magical creatures. Some are humorous, some are scary and some are just plain fun to watch. We truly do get the sense that Newt cares about all the creatures he goes in search of, the well-meaning ones or otherwise.
Unfortunately the characters overall do end up feeling rather droll. Gellert Grindelwald is mentioned throughout the movie as an evil wizard on the loose, but he fails to be anything more intriguing than a name. Hopefully his role in the sequel(s) will provide an adequate substitute for Voldemort.
While the Fantastic Beasts are fun to watch and an obvious highlight, the different tones, distant plot lines and boring use of environment make this movie a boring start to the new franchise. The movie works on some levels and is by no means an awful movie. For fans of Harry Potter I would recommend seeing the movie, just don’t expect to be drawn back into the magical world the same way.
6/10 – An okay movie that could have been more Magical.