Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Length: 133 minutes / 2.22 hours
As someone who never fully immersed themselves in the Harry Potter fandom, this spin-off wasn’t high on my “to watch” list. Sure, I liked the movies well enough for the continual narrative they provided (still haven’t gotten to the books yet), and I understand that this parallel universe full of magic is a unique idea that hasn’t been explored in this fashion, but this just seems like a tag-along to capitalize on a successful franchise. That’s not to say that Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016) isn’t good, it’s just that it does require a bit of background knowledge in order to fully “get it.”
Partly because seeing wizardry and magic in the modern era might still seem odd, this throwback to the past is only made better by placing it in the United States. Both of these settings differ from the main Harry Potter franchise enough to be both a side-story as well as a prequel that explores some of the more obscure aspects of the mythos. While there are subtle chastisements at the closed-mindedness of Americans, there also wasn’t much difference between the American magic and the British kind (other than what they called things). I would have almost liked it better if there were “Tommy gun” wands and New York magical mafias. Granted, there was a little of this last one, but not enough to be truly “American.”
In the end, Fantastic Beasts fails to deliver a solid antagonist for the “uninitiated,” since the anti-magic character didn’t seem to affect the actions of the main character much at all, and the “true” villain was revealed at the end, but with no context (other than spinning newspapers at the very beginning) as to why he was bad or what he did to deserve his punishment. All this being said, Fantastic Beasts did provide a bit of entertainment and managed to show us some “fantastic beasts” along the way, as it promised.
Another taste of magic to keep Harry Potter fans satiated, I give Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 3.0 stars out of 5.