In theory, David Yate’s “Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them” is a difficult material to grapple with. It is not based on an actual novel but on a fictional textbook used in a fictional school. It features weary-looking adults that we are not familiar with. And for all its heavy-lifting to connect to the Harry Potter universe, it does not feature the three main characters that have made that universe endearing in the first place. I think this is why J.K. Rowling herself, the mastermind behind said universe, is hitched to write the movie’s script. The first story that showcased Rowling’s Wizarding World was released on 1997 and the latest was in July 2016 in the form of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a stage play performed in London and soon in New York. Now, decades have passed, and two factions have grown between the sporadic updates that Rowling expertly drops here and there: those who relished the revelations and those who grow tired of over-selling the story. As a millennial who first introduced the Harry Potter books to my elementary classmates when I was eight years old, obviously, I belong to the former. After thousands of pages of histories and back stories that all started in 1997, it is nothing short of fantastic that everything seems to connect so flawlessly into one elegant narrative, one that links the brand-new story of Newt Scamander in 1920’s New York in the “Fantastic Beasts” movie to The Boy Who Lived. Its plot is simple: a wizard goes to foreign land, accidentally unleashes mayhem, solves the problem, and stumbles upon new threats along the way. Eddie Redmayne was an odd choice to play Newt, but he proved himself capable of fitting into the world of nifflers, alohomoras, and wizard politics without standing out too much. Speaking of standing out, Alison Sudol’s mind-reading Queenie and Samantha Morton’s ultra-orthodox Mary Lou Barebones were clearly the salt and pepper that spiced up this movie. They stood out in many good ways. As for that surprise in the end? Not so much. I won’t spoil it here. There seems to be missing arcs in all the characters which drags the story from becoming truly exceptional. What is Newt’s real motivation for coming to the Big Apple? Why is the magical community in this city so backward? Why does Tina look eternally teary eyed? Despite the presence of the beasts that give the movie its bright humorous spots, there’s a veneer of sadness on each scene, or an undertone of something sinister and terrible is about to happen soon. Rowling is often accused of expanding (and milking) too much the Wizarding World, but with a tale teeming with cultural paranoia, political discontent and bigotry, this feels solid and relevant. Even with the obvious plot holes and the need for more instalments, I’d be happy to dive right into the chaos. I’m a fan.
[ photo borrowed from this site ].