7 books and 8 movies later, J.K. Rowling takes us back into her Wizarding World with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Before watching the film, I was afraid I wouldn’t like it. I was afraid I would find myself in a Phantom Menace type of situation. Those who grew up watching the original Star Wars trilogy found the prequels to be disappointing. Since I grew up loving the Harry Potter movies, I thought I would find myself in the same situation. Instead of feeling excited before the release, I was feeling dread. I really wanted to like this movie.

I tried to constantly remind myself that this was more of a spin-off than a prequel, because it takes place 70 years before the events in Harry Potter. I also found comfort in knowing that Eddie Redmayne had been cast as the main character, (The Theory of Everything being one of my favorite films) and a Hufflepuff nonetheless!

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them combines the magic and friendship elements we loved from Harry Potter and combined them into a more mature and adventurous story in the muggle (sorry “No-Maj” aint happening) world.

***WARNING SPOILERS BELOW***

Newt (Redmayne), Tina (Katherine Waterston), Jacob (Dan Fogler), and Queenie (Fine Frenzy) are a bunch of misfits that are brought together by chance.

Newt’s mission to teach the wizarding community that beasts are not as dangerous as they seem sets off a chain reaction that unravels a scheme by Percival Graves (Colin Farrell).

Tina’s goal to prove to the MACUSA (Magical Congress of the United States of America), the American version of the Ministry of Magic, that she is fit to be reinstated as an Auror leads her to Newt and his magical creatures.

Jacob, the muggle, was at the wrong place at the wrong time, or in this case, the right place and the right time.

And Queenie was just Tina’s sister and roommate. (Did anyone else find a similarity between her and Daisy Buchanan from The Great Gatsby, or was it just me?)

But although the film was able to establish new characters and set-up this new magical era, it does suffer from its subplots.

The main story lies within its name “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” But there are two other underlying plots that can sometimes make the pacing of the movie a bit dull. Credence (Ezra Miller) and his Salem cult threatening to expose the Wizarding community and the international lookout for the dark wizard Grindelwald or any of his extremist followers.

In the culmination of the movie, it is revealed that Percival Graves was actually Grindelwald all along. This made me wonder whether Colin Farrell’s character will come back like Mad-Eye Moody did after being usurped by Barty Crouch Jr.

I’m still trying to decide whether I liked Johnny Depp’s look as Grindelwald or not. I’m hoping that his time in the American Azkaban will make him reconsider his bleached hair as a bad fashion style…

Overall, J. K. Rowling and David Yates managed to create an impressive movie that is able to stand on its own without heavily borrowing from the Harry Potter lore.

B+

The year is 1926, and Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) has just completed a global excursion to find and document an extraordinary array of magical creatures. Arriving in New York for a brief stopover, he might have come and gone without incident, were it not for a No-Maj (American for Muggle) named Jacob, a misplaced magical case, and the escape of some of Newt’s fantastic beasts, which could spell trouble for both the wizarding and No-Maj worlds.

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