Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them

I can’t remember my first encounter with J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World. Somehow, Harry Potter has always been a part of my life. I’d read the books diligently and I’d watch the first film, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, on repeat. I felt an instant connection to the Ravenclaw house and knew I belonged there even before I was sorted into it. Watching the midnight premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 with my cousins in the Philippines was a highlight of my teenage years, but it was a perfect conclusion to what I saw was a perfect franchise. I had said my goodbyes. The apparition of a new movie, and then the promise of four other films after that as part of a new franchise, was at first unsettling and uneasy to me, especially since Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was met with extreme division.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is directed by David Yates, who directed the last four Harry Potter films, and written by J.K. Rowling herself. I instantly felt that familiarity as soon as the movie started, and the film wasted no time welcoming folks into the Wizarding World. The comfort in this felt like a fuzzy blanket, the Easter eggs (which were mostly name drops) in the film felt like tasty chocolate, and pretty soon I was charmed by the adventures of the American Wizarding World,
Newt Scamander, and his case full of magical creatures.

While this movie is certain to please many Harry Potter fans, Eddie Redmayne’s performance as Newt Scamander is one of the shining reasons to see this movie. Redmayne’s eccentric English magizoologist is layered, complex, and shows immense potential for his character, which was incredibly exciting. The roots he establishes for Scamander’s character and eccentricity are relatable and striking, and his performance goes above and beyond to a level just as worthy as his Oscar-winning performance as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything.

Unfortunately, most of the American characters and aspects introduced felt flat, unlikable, or disappointing for stretches of the movie. No-Maj (or Muggle) Jacob Kowalski’s presence initially didn’t make sense on paper and it reverberated for half of the film’s first act. Tina Goldstein came across as extremely uptight and the film seemed to clench up at points. So much of the Magical Congress of the United States of America, the American version of the Ministry of Magic, felt unexplored and the film felt like it had so much more potential to explore certain themes. In addition, the ending took a weird transition that felt unnatural and a bit forced.

However, it also made me excited for what’s to come. Fantastic Beasts reignited my love for the Wizarding World and was an amazing reintroduction of magic into my life. Every spell cast took me back to my childhood and the love and care of this franchise could still be felt through every frame. Not only did the film reaffirm that “Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home,” but it enchanted you to spread the magic for others to enjoy and cherish.