A Different Kind of Magic: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Review

Just when we thought that we’ve already seen the last of J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World on the big screen, along comes Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – the much-anticipated Harry Potter spinoff based on one of the textbooks that harry and his friends studied at Hogwarts. It’s a pretty valid excuse to once again delve into the magical world Rowling created, and a springboard into expanding the witchcraft and wizarding universe, which used to be limited only within the boundaries of Harry Potter’s shadow.

While the Harry Potter films our generation grew up mainly treaded along the adventures of Harry, Ron, and Hermoine in and out of Hogwarts, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them zooms out and gives us a sneak peek of the rest of the Wizarding World. Newt Scamander – a magizoologist and soon-to-be book author just got to New York with a suitcase full of rare and endangered magical creatures. When several of the creatures inside the case escapes, he sets on a quest to capture them all back Pokémon style, in order to keep them from wreaking havoc in New York. Unknown to him, a malicious force more terrifying than his beasts is already plaguing the city, threatening the statute of secrecy and endangering the lives of witches, wizards, and No-Majs (the American version of Muggles) alike.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Trailer

While the Harry Potter films primarily revolved around fitting-in, growing-up, and discovering and accepting oneself, set against Hogwarts as the escapist background, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them takes us into our own world, which in itself already sets it apart from its predecessors. This film offers us a different kind of magic from the one we felt from the HP movies.

Personally, Harry Potter’s adventures appealed to me because it felt like “discovering” a new world, and delving into its complex wonders and spectacle (and its engaging storyline, of course). Newt Scamander’s adventures though, felt different. Despite the familiar spells, names, and other parallelisms of the film with the Harry Potter movies, the story felt a little..well, older. This was probably because of the fact that the Harry Potter fans who grew up with “the boy who lived”, have also become older themselves. To me, despite being a spinoff, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them went nowhere close to Harry Potter’s magic.
Eddie Redmayne, also had to work with what little material he had for Newt Scamander. Despite being the main character, he was underdeveloped, and we only got a glimpse of his background and motivation. Unlike Harry Potter whom we got to know as he grew and discovered his magic, Newt Scamander was given to us in a jiffy. We can only hope that the character evolves from being a cardboard cutout in the subsequent films of the franchise.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that this movie is no good. In fact I was able to appreciate the subtle social relevance tucked into its storyline. Set in the Roaring Twenties, when tolerance was low and there’s an apparent surge in racism and discrimination, the No-Majs’ fear of the wizards and witches served as a metaphor for the persecution of minorities by white Americans (whether intentional or not).

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Themhas been a method for J.K Rowling to expand the Wizarding World. Following her announcement of the eleven other wizarding schools worldwide, you can already tell that it’s only going to get bigger from here on.

Rating: 3/5

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