The Harry Potter universe is one filled with depth and authenticity, so it makes sense that the prequel series would share the same spirit. The film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them opened this past week, and reopened the world that many have loved and resided in and paved a path through storylines that were only hinted at before.
Now it is going to be really difficult to review this without giving away any of the twists, for these are really what tied the movie together, but there was truly a lot to love about the film. First of all, it is filled with adorable magical animals. The way the traveling magical zoo is treated in the film creates characters out of the numerous, personality filled, animals. This was truly the most entertaining part, along with the multiple little Easter eggs to the original series.
It begins lighthearted and for the most part stays there. Before I had gone to see it most reviews were calling it a “really fun movie.” There was something a little disquieting about that, especially following the original series, who’s final films were filled with darkness and a visceral dread. While watching it though, it brought a realization that this film was bringing fans back to the fun of the beginning of the Harry Potter series. It was bringing things back to before Voldemort, quite literally, and along with it the darkness he brought with him in his grande full arrival in Goblet of Fire. This magic zoo with it’s Hufflepuff zookeeper, was entertaining in itself even if you subtracted the overarching plot line, the other characters, and all of the wonderful setting choices.
Fun aside, however, there was a very real side to things. Fans already know to expect at least four more films from this franchise, so they can also expect things to move a bit faster than the original eight film series. The audience is already getting hints, and a bit more, to the dark wizard of this series, Grindelwald. In some points, the plot line, which filmmakers made evident will be the overarching struggle and story for the series, overshadowed the titular fantastic beasts.
The film serves as a wonderful introduction to the characters, to their defining traits, and the struggle that will surely take center stage, but there are a few things that fall by the wayside. Again, though the beasts are fun and entertaining, the movie is obviously not about them, and though it seems like this may have been a secret filmmakers were trying to surprise the audience with once they entered the theater, it did feel like they should have kept the spotlight for a greater portion of the film. A lot of the character’s were also kept fairly vague in their development, with Katherine Waterston’s character, Porpentina Goldstein, borrowing a couple traits from the beloved similarly oddly named Gryffindor, Hermione.
She comes in with a familiar strict rule-obeying attitude, and tries to make the audience love her out of familiarity, and to some degree it works. Truly, the success of Fantastic Beasts resides mainly on this familiarity people have with the world and the desire to reside in these spaces once again, to fall in love with the wizarding world again. The story line seems entertaining and leaves the audience wanting more. Now we can only wait and see if these four more films will build this adoration, or bring the adored franchise to a bitter parting note.