Overview: Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), acclaimed British Magizoologist, finds himself at the center of a civil war between magical and non-magical born Americans in 1920s New York. Warner Bros. Pictures; 2016; Rated PG-13; 133 minutes.
Revisiting the Wizarding World: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is among the more effortlessly joyful blockbuster events of the 2016 holiday season. Serving as a prequel to the wildly popular Harry Potter franchise, first-time screenwriter and series author J.K. Rowling has delivered a novel avenue for longtime fans to return to her immediately familiar Wizarding World. Despite the fact that the film’s story takes place years before either Harry Potter or Lord Voldemort had officially tread upon the world stage, returning director David Yates manages to imbue the new movie with all of the magic beholden to the preceding eight motion pictures and seven original novels.
Those in the know will no doubt recall several key names and world events that are referenced through Rowling’s brand new screenplay, and those fans have a lot to be happy about in general with the state of things in Yates’ latest epic fantasy. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is teeming with good will and a story fraught with the same kind of moral ambiguity and existential danger as viewers will remember form the preceding four Harry Potter movies. Revisiting Rowling’s Wizarding World in the form of what is slated to become a five-movie prequel series is thrilling to a point and should encourage devoted fans to come back for seconds, thirds, fourths, and fifths.
Establishing Another Cinematic Universe: For some viewers, the first eight Harry Potter movies may have already introduced the idea of another cinematic universe worth revisiting indefinitely. And given the amount of extraneous material and continuing narratives that Rowling herself has provided to readers in the past by way of the social media fan site Pottermore and this past summer’s original play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Rowling is no stranger to the concept of interconnected movies either. Enter Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them as a continuation of the original eight Harry Potter movies from Warner Bros. Pictures, and you have a new major motion picture powerhouse to stand beside the likes of Marvel Studios and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
But the continuing travails of various denizens of Rowling’s Wizarding World are a minor part of what made the Harry Potter series worthwhile and generationally meaningful to begin with. The winding journey of The Boy Who Lived has a beginning, middle, and an end, and readers who remember awaiting the publication of each subsequent installment anxiously tread a similar path. True, Harry, Ron, and Hermione discovered many interesting historical factoids about their world along the way, but the story was fundamentally structured as a Bildungsroman. When Harry finally vanquishes Lord Voldemort, the story is over. Lives have been saved, and, more importantly, Harry has gone through his formative years as a boy to emerge a much wiser man – a maturing process that many of his most fervent readers and fans concurrently experienced in their own lives. The rest is icing on the cake, making Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them a rather large confectionary baked good dripping with excess sugar and on the verge of collapsing back unto itself.
Overview: Sometimes too much of a good thing isn’t always the greatest idea, and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is fine enough all on its own, with its very own beginning, middle, and end. It’s the succeeding four installments that should give viewers some worry.
Featured Image: Warner Bros. Pictures