‘Fantastic Beasts’ not quite fantastic

Arthur Gonzalez-Martin, Senior Staff Photographer

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Harry Potter has many introductions not only into the world of reading but also in films. Gaining major popularity in the late 1990s, the book series was adapted into eight films, a number of video games of varying levels of quality and a play that is hated by die-hard Potterheads for being a terrible continuation of where the books left off. Now there’s a film based on the beastly textbook written in the late 1920s.

“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” centered around Newt Scamander, a socially awkward wizard and animal lover, trying to return one of his critters to its native home in Arizona. He’s trying to make a textbook to stop his fellow magic users from killing all the magical beasts off. But while stopping in New York City, he gets his bag mixed up with Jacob Kowalski, a non-wizard or “no-mag” as the American wizards call them and WWI vet who is trying to become a baker as factory work is killing him. He serves as a fill in for the audience who doesn’t understand American wizard culture if not wizard culture in general. He opens the suitcase and releases a number of the creatures trapped within. This causes Newt to be arrested by Popentina “Tina” Goldstein, a hardworking state worker of the magical congress of the U.S. or MACUSA and the most grounded member of the group. Goldstein became demoted for trying to stop an anti-wizard group called the “second Salem” from beating the kids they rescue from the streets. Her younger sister Queenie Goldstein, a naturally-born telepath, free spirit and love interest to the no-mag for not being scared off by her mind reading every space of his head.

The music is very classical and wonderlust as past Harry Potter movies with a great jazz piece played near the end at a wizard speakeasy, but not really anything the other films did better.

The story and lore do benefit a lot from not being tied to a real book as to show off how the world works. Potterheads, or at least American ones, will love to see how magical life in the U.S. of a fare compared to the Brits. From slang to the treatment of other magical races. The biggest being goblins are allowed to have wands.

Non-fans will have a blast with all the CGI, explosions and chase scenes that go with trying to catch all the critters. Do note that the CGI can look odd when they’re trying to have the actors interact with anything CGI. More than normal as it’s kind of cheap for modern day films.

The world building may be good, but the story is rushed or slowed down too much at times. They’re not only trying to catch beasts but stop the big bad dark lord before “he who shall not be named” was even alive. A romantic plot between a no-mag and a witch with all three failing to get the attention needed to pull any of them off well.

It also wasn’t clear that some of this was setting up for the next four movies, a complete story but also an establishing film for a series.

Overall, it’s a fine movie. It was hindered by its set up for the other to be announced Harry Potter spin-off, but not as much as Batman vs. Superman. Stay tuned and see how for the Harry Potter cinematic universe goes.

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