I felt oddly nostalgic hearing the Harry Potter theme music and stylized Warner Bros logo on the big screen again as I sat down to watch “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” After all, it hasn’t been that long since the last Harry Potter flick was in theaters. Regardless, it was still thrilling to take a dive back into J.K. Rowling’s magical world of wizards, witches, and monsters.
This new film takes place in 1920s New York, which is a refreshing take on the franchise. Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) arrives in York and immediately starts to lose magic creatures, which he apparently keeps in a suitcase (more on that later). After causing some trouble, Newt’s picked up by disgraced Magical Congress of the United States (MACUSA) Auror Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) and we’re introduced to the notion that New York has been victimized by strange, and destructive, magical happenings. Lead Auror Percival Graves (Colin Farrell) then alerts us that there are magical beasties on the loose and blames Newt, probably for good reason. The film then follows Newt, his muggle friend Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), Tina, and her sister Queenie (Alison Sudol) as they try to track down the remaining magical creatures. But far darker business is afoot!
As the film progresses more of the American wizarding world is revealed and it’s quite interesting. There’s a lot of tension with trying to keep the magical folk well hidden, although there are some who want reveal themselves and make war on the no-majes (non-magical folk). Plus it’s great fun seeing all the magical creatures that Newt keeps in his suitcase. It’s basically a poorly-secured magical zoo in there.
The story builds excitement as more dangerous forces are revealed, but it really fails to deliver on character development. We get a little a background Newt and Jacob, but almost none on Tina and Queenie. The plot, while interesting, seems too split to be coherent. One half is Newt recapturing his creatures and the other half is them dealing with the dark forces. The connections between the two are just too shaky, making it seem inorganic.
That said, it’s still a very enjoyable movie and I would recommend seeing it despite it’s minor flaws. It’s rated PG-13 as there is some violence, romance, and scary moments. Overall I would rate it a solid 7.5 out of 10. Will be watching again.