At the cinema: Fantastic Beasts and where to find them

Helen Huang, Staff Reporter

Over Thanksgiving Break, the world was treated to two new and highly anticipated movies: Moana, about the latest Disney princess, and the Harry Potter prequel Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. While I have yet to see Moana, I can tell you straight off that Fantastic Beasts is…well, “fantastic.”

Long story short, it’s based on the 2001  spin-off book of the same name, which is actually referenced in the original Harry Potter books as a textbook. The movie, the first in a planned series of five, explores the world of the 1926 American wizarding world, various magical creatures, and the adventures of Newt Scamander, a British “magizoologist” (magical animal expert), who is also the fictional “author” of the Fantastic Beasts book. Newt arrives in New York City only to have all his animals escape from his enchanted suitcase and be accused by the American wizarding government of causing recent disasters in the city with his critters.

The setting is an interesting deviation from the usual Harry Potter one. Instead of the 1990’s, it’s set in a time that most of us now think of as old-age and old-fashioned. The people wear different clothes, and everything from the buildings to the automobiles to the jobs are unfamiliar. Yet, everything seems to fit perfectly with the plot, and things are kept fresh and original with a new, separate wizarding government. The signature magic and humor of Harry Potter still exist.

The characters are something to behold! While almost all of them (save for a few references) are unfamiliar, they’re given good, distinct personalities. The movie does an especially good job with Newt, who’s shown as a quirky but kind-hearted animal lover, and the two sisters that help him the most—one is rational and committed to her work; the other is bright, sweet, flirtatious, and (surprisingly) strong-willed. What’s really impressive is how the women are able to be strong female characters without having to be “badass” and renounce their femininity. They’re the best kind of “strong.” They’re complex, driven, and relatable.

All in all, I have to say that Fantastic Beasts is an one-of-a-kind production. The characters in particular really drew attention. Even if you’re not a Potter fan, I seriously recommend you watch this–especially if you’re someone who can’t resist cute magical critters!