Why Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a Fantastic Start
December 2, 2016
Sometimes it is easy to forget how my favorite books make me feel. When it’s been so long since I first read them, the excitement of relating to my favorite character, the pleasure of discovering plot twists, and the wonderful feeling of finding a home in literature becomes hazy as I move on to other works.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them started out as a book, a magical textbook to be exact, within a book. It wasn’t until many years later, after the Potter franchise, that it was announced that this book within a book would get its own movie series. So I, like many others, waited in anticipation for the movies, anxious after the long hiatus that J.K. Rowling had taken from the magical world that she created.
While this is a movie and not a book, I still regarded it the same way I would one of Rowling’s novels. The plot, though still within the wizarding world, offers a new look into a part of this world that had not yet been revealed. No longer is magic only a part of British society, but it is now in the United States as well. The story of Harry Potter and Hogwarts is not necessarily forgotten, but moved aside for a new plot that expands on new characters. U.S.A.! U.S.A.!
Centering on the character Newt Scamander, this new story focuses not only on his creatures, but also the unfolding conflicts between magical and non-magical people, revealing themes of racial tensions and dark wizard radicalism. Basically, whoever still believes that Harry Potter books are just for children is extremely ignorant to the major political themes Rowling depicts in them. It is nice to know that Rowling continues to expose her audience to important and relevant issues within the Fantastic Beasts movies.
Some arguments that have come up against the new movie are complaints about a lack of character development. While I will agree that the movie is slow with development, I would argue that this is exactly what Rowling always does.
In the Harry Potter series, it took all seven books for the characters to become more familiar and more developed, and they weren’t perfect characters by the end either. I believe this makes the whole experience more realistic. It takes time to develop a character’s ambitions, attitudes, opinions and so on, just like any real person. And since it has already been decided that there will be sequels, such development doesn’t have a time constraint within this movie. I always found Rowling’s long-term character development to be ingenious, and I believe it will also appear in the Fantastic Beasts movies with just as much success.
Another thing I loved about the movie was its use of humor. The Harry Potter movies often failed to provide the humor that was so prolific in the books. But it seems this has changed with the addition of humorous characters and creatures.
Also, can I just admit already that Eddie Redmayne is wonderful? Of course I might have some bias — I mean c’mon, the man is beautiful and has a smile that could end wars! But besides his good looks, Redmayne does a good job of giving his character, Newt Scamander — a character that had only ever been mentioned as the author of some magical textbook — life. He made his character funny but serious about his passions and also extremely human in his insecurities and faults. Sometimes an actor just fits their character, as Emma Watson did for Hermione and Rupert Grint did for Ron. Eddie Redmayne is as Hufflepuff-esque as his character, and it makes his acting all the more believable.
The only critique I’ve ever had with the Harry Potter movies was their lack of color, color that I always believed would naturally go hand in hand with magic. But I guess I should have taken into account that the stories are set in England. However, in the new movie, the dark grays of 1920s America are mixed with the vibrant colors of the new and bizarre beasts presented throughout the film, making it more appealing to the eye.
Overall, I would say this movie is a must-see for Potter fans and a choice film for all movie-goers. The plot and world building hints at the old series but doesn’t make it impossible for someone unfamiliar with them to understand what’s going on. The characters are quirky and funny and relatable, something I always enjoy, and it has serious undertones about world issues. And magic! Don’t forget the magic! But above all, the movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them helped me remember what it was like to first read my favorite series, and it made me feel at home.