Our first week in a post-Fantastic Beasts world has begun. It’s been over three years since the film was first announced, and during that time we’ve screamed, hypothesized, and gleefully anticipated more than we have since the Potter books were released. So, what better way to assimilate this new addition into a magical universe we adore than to dive deep and let all our feelings out.
Backed by the Potter films’ creative and production teams and written by J.K. Rowling herself, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them marks the first time we’ve been introduced to an entirely new era outside the novels. But did it make the cut? Take a look at some of our staff thoughts below, and be warned: spoilers abound.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them was a movie I almost wanted to dislike. After my tepid reaction to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and the announcement that the Fantastic Beasts franchise would span five films, I felt like the Potter fandom was being taken advantage of and that the universe was becoming stretched too thin.
And while I wasn’t blown away by Fantastic Beasts, I’m so happy that I didn’t dislike it in the least. The movie is so charming it could burst: from Eddie Redmayne’s extremely loveable Newt Scamander to his equally precious and varied beasts, our audience was in a perpetual state of “awww”. Additionally, the film was quite funny and light in contrast to its very dark (and relevant) themes of abuse, discrimination, and social unrest.
While I felt as though this worked mood-wise (the humor never took away from seriousness of the unfolding events), it didn’t always work plot-wise. The combined plots of Newt reclaiming his beasts, MACUSA’s attempt to wrangle magical and muggle relations, an Obscurial on the loose, and Grindelwald’s uprising didn’t totally connect and were patchy as a result. While some of these plotlines will be explored in further installments, others didn’t get their time in the limelight. The identity of this movie also felt very strange to me: given that the “beasts” aspect will be largely absent from the following films, I wonder why that was marketed as the focus for the start of a new franchise.
In terms of the characters, there were a few standouts (Newt, Jacob, and all the beasts), but I think some rung a bit hollow (I wanted so much more from Tina, Credence, and the highly-anticipated MACUSA President Seraphina Picquery). Again, we have four more films to flesh out some of these characters and their storylines, but this movie might have also suffered because of this exact situation: at times, the movie felt thin and held back because too much material needed to be saved for the subsequent films.
Regardless, I left this movie with a slew of questions and theories that I spent the next two days discussing, and I think that’s exactly the kind of reaction a good piece of entertainment should elicit. It met the very difficult criterion of being a worthy addition to the Harry Potter universe and truly evoked the feel we’ve come to know and love from that franchise. So even though this movie lacked a little spice, I’m excited to see where this series will go.
It’s strange to go into a movie set in the Harry Potter universe and not know every single thing that’s going to happen, but in the case of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, it was definitely a plus. I went in knowing literally nothing of what the plot would be. I barely knew the characters’ names. And instead of wondering what would be left out because I’d read the story a dozen times, I could focus on what was actually happening.
The idea of an anti-witch group keeping the American wizarding community even more in hiding than they were before was not something I was expecting, but it was a perfect villain for our heroes to go up against. And the new terrifying creature, the Obscurus, was incredibly interesting and creepy. I’m really looking forward to seeing if they come up in the following films. Especially the theory that Dumbledore’s sister was one, which is what drew Gellert Grindelwald to their family. I’m sure we will learn soon enough, and I am certain that this will not be the last time we see Credence.
While this movie was definitely darker than most of the HP series, it definitely had a lighter, comical side the really helped balance the film. I caught myself giggling more than once, especially during the scenes where Newt and Jacob are caring for the creatures and rounding up the ones that escaped. Introducing Queenie, a witch with an innate magical ability we’ve not seen before, really opened the doors to magical diversity and added a certain upbeat feeling to the scenes she was in.
My only real complaint was that Tina fell a little flat against all the other popping, rounded characters. Her grievances against Second Salem were confusing at first, and her memories of spending time with Credence came seemingly out of nowhere and mucked up how I viewed her motives. Hopefully we’re able to see more of Tina coming into her own storyline in the rest of the series. Wanting to see more of Grindelwald, though, is another story.
All in all, this was a strong return to the magical world. I’m not sure exactly where Newt will be taking us, but if there are more bowtruckles and nifflers there, I’m in.