Sam’s Take: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Illustration by Jiaqi Zhou

The Harry Potter series has been one of the most popular and sustaining franchises in the past two decades, maintaining a ravenous fanbase, even after the release of the seventh and final book and films.

Many have been begging for a return to J.K. Rowling’s universe to explore what else is out there.

Director David Yates and Rowling decided to answer that call and invite fans back into the wizarding world with “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” Despite hoping to kickstart a new franchise and explore the world’s lore, this film sadly fails on both fronts, becoming a disappointingly bad prequel to the Harry Potter series.

I had high hopes for “Fantastic Beasts,” despite never being obsessed with the Harry Potter franchise. I loved the idea of not only setting wizards in 1920’s era New York, but also seeing what other types of creatures and characters existed in this world.

In that aspect — whenever the film is actually about finding the fantastic beasts, following Newt Scamander and his American acquaintances trying to capture them — it’s a lot of fun. The characters are likable and have good chemistry, with Eddie Redmayne giving a particularly fun performance as Newt.

The beasts themselves also earn the title of “fantastic,” as there are many colorful and cool designs. There’s one sequence dedicated to simply showing off all the different monsters Newt has captured, and it’s my favorite sequence in the film.

There are also some cool ideas for action scenes involving the creatures, liking tricking a shapeshifting bird to go from filling an entire room to fit into a teapot — but the execution of these action-set pieces is lackluster at best, with many feeling lazy or just plain boring.

And this is where we get into the major problems of “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” The “finding” of the fantastic beasts is a side plot of the film. The main story is full of allusions to further sequels and wizard fights, where the characters simply flail their wands around and reflect each other’s’ attacks.

Whenever I found myself getting invested in Newt and his friends, or the actual search for the monsters, the film would cut back to a character engaged in evil or bizarre scenes involving an anti-witch cult. There comes a point near the end where the movie easily could have ended, but instead the audience is subjected to 30 more minutes of wrapping up a plot there’s little-to-no investment in anyway.

This is what’s so disappointing about this film: the premise is not about expanding the lore, but an obvious attempt to make more money off the Harry Potter name. Instead of creating something original, like following Newt as he travels around the world and collecting these beasts, the film is focused on rehashing similar plots and characters from the original hit series.

In the end, “Fantastic Beasts” is a forgettable film that is just plain bad. While there is a good movie hiding somewhere in between the cracks, it’s not enough to save the film. Hopefully the sequels will focus on building the world rather than building the franchise.

Rating: Maybe if you’re a Hogwarts veteran but even then you’re better off just watching the originals.

Samuel Goodrich, Staff Writer

Jiaqi Zhou, Illustrator 

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