Opening weekend for it we got out and saw Fantastic beasts and Where to Find Them. While I enjoy the Harry Potter universe, I am not a huge die hard fan of it. As I wrote in a previous post here Cursed Child was disappointing. I also have issues with a fair amount of not too well thought out aspects of the original seven book storyline. I understand why it is a fun series and why so many people enjoy it, but I too often felt it was overrated and that many fans tried to turn the series into something greater than it was.
The original eight movies were fun, but too much suffered from the same problems of the books with the added lose of story that is too often seen when turning a book into a movie. I did enjoy them though for the level they were.
So as usual I gave that background of my feelings for what has come before to help put my views on the new movie in perspective.
I though Fantastic Beast was the perfect way to reintroduce the franchise. Movie studios need to take a note from this example and learn just how to break away from the mold and be able to play in an established universe without having to use anything we've seen before. There is no Harry Potter or Voldemort in this movie and that is a good thing. Dumbledore and Hogwarts are mentioned, but are not essential for the story in the least. This could easily be a stand along movie that does everything it needs to in just the one film.
The story is about creature hunter Newt Scamander, who studies these amazing creatures and tries to protect ad help them. Newt comes to America on a personal agenda. Much of his philosophy goes against the ideas of the magical community, who seem to believe it is better to kill off a believe dangerous species than study them and try to understand them. The movie shows how ignorance and fear cause problems. Newt also is not a charismatic person and is very aware of this, admitting that he makes people uncomfortable.
Beyond that, the character of Newt is also not a powerful wizard or a chosen one of any of that. We have no prophecies or great expectations of him. No one is pushing him to be great. He uses his actual skills and knowledge time and time again to make a difference. It is the aspects that make him something of an outsider that allows him to do what he does and it is under appreciated by just about everyone he encounters. In some ways he is a 180 degree turn from the character of Harry Potter and that makes him far more interesting for me. Harry fit with what children play as being, a chosen one with great potential and everyone knows it, while Newt is more human and down to earth, a guy who is just trying to do his best with what he has. With that one element we see a maturing of the franchise that is going to help to bring people into this world. I can see it appealing to those who gave up on the original movies becasue they were too childish or repetitive.
While the title itself is not accurate, due to being based on a fictional text book that Harry and friends use, the movie does deliver on showing us a rather impressive cast of fantastic beasts. There are many well down scenes that have a truly magical sense to them showing us these creatures.
And while it does not look like we will see the other three main characters in the sequels, they were well done as well. The no-mag/muggle Jacob Kowalski was a perfect counter to Newt, as a generally likeable guy who gets caught up in something beyond anything he thought possible. His fascination with the discovery of the magic world is so perfectly shown. In some ways he plays the average Harry Potter fan getting to play around in the magic world for a bit, with child like wonder at it all.
Porpentina Goldstein and her sister Queenie are a perfectly pair. Fun and charming characters and the main source of our knowledge of the Wizarding World of America.
I am looking forwards to see where this film series takes us. My understanding is that each film will take place in a different country so that in the end we will get to see the magical communities around the world. There is a lot of potential here. It may take ten years for us to get the full story, but if they can keep it all at this level is will be an enjoyable journey.