The Magic returns in the Harry Potter spin-off: Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them


From left to right Tina (Katherine Waterson), Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), Queenie (Alison Sudol), and Jacob (Dan Fogel).

Manuel Ramirez, Staff Reporter

In the World of Harry Potter the term Muggle is used to describe an individual who isn’t a witch or wizard in Great Britain. Who knew that in America the word No-Maj was utilized instead? While Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them isn’t exactly a Harry Potter movie, it does take place in the same universe based on the books by J.K. Rowling. After directing the final four films of the franchise, David Yates returns to the director’s chair with Rowling herself serving as the writer in this new installment, decades before young Harry began his adventure at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Set in 1926, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), a British wizard who has a way with magical creatures, arrives in New York City. After a rough encounter with a No-Maj named Jacob Kowalski (Dan Folger) Newt’s fantastic beasts escape from his enchanted briefcase landing him in hot water with the Wizarding Law called the MACUSA (Magical Congress of the United States of America), especially with its officials: Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterson), Percival Graves (Colin Farrell) and President Seraphina Picquery (Carmen Ejogo). Aided by Jacob, Newt goes on the run in search for his beloved beasts before they cause anymore trouble. Unfortunately, the situation proves to be more difficult when a mysterious dark entity is spotted leaving a trail of destruction in the Big Apple. Making matters more complicated, Graves and the Magic Congress are in hot pursuit of Newt believing that he is the source of all the trouble. Not bad enough? There’s an anti-witch and wizard group called the Second Salemers, run by a No-Maj named Mary Lou (Samantha Morton) who also runs an orphanage home of her children Predence, (Ezra Miller) Modesty (Faith Wood-Blagrove) and Chastity (Jean Murray). But wait there’s more, there’s also a No-Maj, who suspects in the existence of the Wizarding World much to the annoyance of his brother running for office and their father (Jon Voight). Starting to see my problem with the movie?

I’m a fan of the Harry Potter books and movies, it had a congruent storyline that didn’t drag or went off trail as it offered many twists and turns as the story progressed. Here, there are a plethora of plotlines that are either predictable, pointless, or outshine the main focus of the movie including its main lead. Redmayne as Newt Scamander is a likable protagonist but when comparing his storyline to the Magical Congress storyline the latter was more engaging. That’s not to say that Newt’s story wasn’t engaging enough as the creatures themselves are a wonder to behold. Known for starring in raunchy material, Comedian Dan Fogel as Jacob Kowalski was a delight every time he was on-screen expressing shock, fear and amazement at the Magical world he never knew existed. He experiences what no regular No-Maj or Muggle ever gets to see; an aspect never explored in the previous Potter movies. The chemistry between him and Queenie (Alison Sudol), Tina’s mind-reading sister is adorable and a highlight of the movie. Though I can’t say the same for other characters that without going into spoilers, suffer the same problem as the multiple stories; not much is explored with them, certain aspects aren’t well executed, aren’t given much screen time or given much to do. Maybe the sequel will explore them more thoroughly, if any of them return that is.

Despite those flaws I still enjoyed this movie, its part of series I grew up as a kid and was nice to revisit again. Fans of the series, myself included, will rejoice at the many Easter eggs and other tiny references in this familiar Wizarding World and explore new and old aspects that were never seen in the Potter movies. Like Doctor Strange one doesn’t have to watch the movies that came before it, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them works well on its own as a solid stand-alone movie, wrapping up its story until the next adventure. (Marvel take note of that). On a quick note, the film is bit dark so if you wanted to show kids the Harry Potter movies stick to the Sorcerer’s Stone and the Chamber of Secrets.

Speaking of Doctor Strange, isn’t it a coincidence that two movies dealing with magic, part of a bigger universe, premiered on the same month a couple of weeks away? Sigh* It’s Disney vs. Warner Brothers all over again! They just have to make their rivalry obvious don’t they? If isn’t with superheroes it’s with wizards. Oh well, on the bright side they gave us two movies that are both fun and enjoyable.