‘Fantastic Beasts’ enjoyable but lacks substance


I wanted to love this movie.

A film within the Harry Potter universe but in a different era and country set up “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” to explore the magic millions love without messing with the established setting of the original series.

However, I left with more questions, not a new story. Perhaps that can be solved with the other planned installments in the “Fantastic Beasts” series, but I’m a bit exasperated to think about watching four more of these movies.

Ex-Hogwarts student and magizoologist Newt Scamander, played by Eddie Redmayne, arrives in New York with a briefcase of magical creatures. Those fantastic beasts escape from the bag, and Scamander must corral them all back into the bag with as little havoc wreaked as possible.

That seems to be the plot of this movie, but it’s not.

Whilst Scamander is gathering his beasts and meeting characters we somehow don’t have enough time to see develop in a two hour movie, there’s other, dangerous supernatural happenings taking place in New York. Caught in tensions with Muggles, or No-Maj’s as the U.S. wizards dubbed them, the American Ministry of Magic tries to pin the disasters on Scamander’s escaped beasts.

The real threat in the plot comes from something we’ve never seen in the Harry Potter universe before—the “Obscurus.”

Without going into major plot details, an “Obscurus” develops when a child born with magic represses his or her powers, creating an uncontrollable dark entity that, according to Scamander, usually kills children before age 10.

However, that made me ask, “Why isn’t the Obscurus more common? Why isn’t disaster happening all over the world?” After all, Harry Potter didn’t find out he was magical until he was 11; thus, he had to repress it to seem normal. He wasn’t the only child like that.

If my previous point is too stickler or particular for the average movie-goer who might have really enjoyed the film, I understand. However, one of the strengths of the seven books and eight Harry Potter films was the continuity of the universe. The world was so well-established in Rowling’s imagination, and fans learned parts of it along with the students at Hogwarts.

This movie lacked in that world consistency. I was constantly trying to wrap my head around new ideas while also taking in new characters we know either nothing or very little about. While unfamiliar characters like Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) and Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) have incredibly endearing moments, swoopy aerial camera movements and comical beast-chasing replaced character development time.

Oh, and there’s a plot twist at the end that lacks the substance to pay off.

It wasn’t a bad movie. “Fantastic Beasts” is animated incredibly well, making the magical creatures that don’t exist look pretty real. The plot is interesting enough to be an enjoyable watch, and there’s plenty of comic relief with the creatures. We even got to see Redmayne perform a not-so-seductive mating dance with a rhinoceros-like creature.

However, there was too much expectation riding on this movie for me, and I’m sure other fans. I know J.K. Rowling wrote the screenplay herself, but perhaps it should have been left at the end of the last Potter film. Even so, like an addict going for the lower quality stuff because the good’s run out, God knows I’ll go see the rest of this darned series.

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)