The best fantasy stories take place in a world, or an alternate version of our world, that the reader or viewer will want to visit time and time again, to learn more about. Middle-Earth was populated by a host of memorable characters and had a detailed history, and people read about Wonderland to see which crazy adventure Alice would end up on next. The Harry Potter books and movies take place on Earth, but their secret “wizarding world” has been an interesting one. Reading or watching the Harry Potter series, one gets the sense there are more stories that can be told in this universe, and now we have Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a story set in the same world as Harry Potter, but without Harry Potter.
A British wizard named Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) studies and takes care of magical creatures, giving some of them asylum in a magical room he keeps in his suitcase. While on a trip to New York City, Newt gets his suitcase mixed up with that of a No-maj(the American term for “Muggle”), an aspiring baker called Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler). Newt, along with Jacob, Magical Congress worker Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) and Tina’s sister Queenie (Alison Sudol) have to recapture these magical creatures before they cause havoc, and deal with a threat that may expose the wizarding world.
If a movie is going to have “Fantastic Beasts” in its title, then it better deliver fantastic beasts, and the bestiary that we are introduced to here does boast some nice-looking designs and cute personalities. The magical animals Newt is hunting for do look like they belong in the world of the film, and there’s a good mixture of the familiar fantasy tropes (Newt went to America to return a hippogriff to its natural habitat) and newer creatures (one of the more prominent creatures is a mole/platypus who carries shiny things in its pouch).
People may say that the Harry Potter series gets darker and darker as it goes on, but Fantastic Beasts is a lot of fun to watch, with its aforementioned beasties and its sense of humour. Though it is set in the same world as Harry Potter, it never really feels like a rehash. Redmayne is enjoyable in his role as the main character, and Fogler’s character is amusing and even a little sympathetic.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is very entertaining, and a welcome return to the Wizarding World