written by David Steffen
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a fantasy action/adventure movie tie-in to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter universe, distributed by Warner Bros pictures in 2016. It shares a title with one of Harry Potter’s textbooks in the Harry Potter series, written by Newt Scamander. And it has also been published as a standalone book by J.K. Rowling in 2001.
In 1926, before he wrote his famous book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Newt Scamander traveled to the United States with a magical bag full of magical beasts, in order to return one of them to its native habitat in the American southwest. Newt accidentally switches bags with a local N0-Maj (the American word for “Muggle” or non-magic-user), an aspiring baker. Demoted Auror (hunter of dark wizards) Tina Goldstein arrests him for the disturbance caused by one of the escaped creatures, but they decide to work together to find the bag and contain all the escaped creatures again. Meanwhile, something magical and powerful is killing people in the city, but Newt is certain it’s not one of his creatures. But the only way to prove that is to recapture all the creatures again. There is an anti-magic in New York at the time, led by No-maj (another word for Muggle, a non-magic-user)Mary Lou Barebone, head of the New Salem Philanthropic Society. The anti-magic sentiment is strong in New York at this time and any magician caught is in danger from the No-Maj population, as well as risking the larger magical society, and Newt’s activities here aren’t exactly legal even within the magical population.
This movie was a lot of fun! Largely because it’s great to have a chance to jump back in the Wizarding World since the main line of Harry Potter books and movies is over. This is the first foray (at least that I remember) into the USA Wizarding World and it’s interesting to see how the laws and customs and wordage are different in the American setting than the British. Although the characters are only familiar in a vague historical sort of way, there is plenty here to engage the watcher, and Newt is an interesting character with at least some laudable goals even if he does seem to make an art of self-delusion (“these creatures aren’t dangerous!” as he works very hard to prevent them murdering random passersby). It works better than any of the Harry Potter movies in my opinion, and I think the reason for that is there’s no book source to compare it unfavorably to, while the Harry Potter movies were all books first that were adapted into movies, this was made to be a movie.
Action packed, a fun return to the universe we know and love but on a new continent we haven’t seen in Harry Potter stories. A lot of fun!