“She’s done it again” seems to be the overall consensus for J.K. Rowling’s newest Wizarding World tale. Set in New York City during the roaring 20’s, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” paid tribute to both a brilliant story — written and produced by Rowling herself — and to the history and culture of the Jazz Age. From beautiful costumes that have already inspired several new clothing lines from companies such as Hot Topic, to the intricate special effects and magical soundtrack — the film is a cinematic masterpiece. “Fantastic Beasts” is the opening film for Rowling’s latest Wizarding World saga, which will include four other films.
“Fantastic Beasts” opens with a flurry of news articles flashing across the screen, concisely revealing the tension in the Wizarding World during the 20’s, which is vital knowledge to understanding the film’s plot. A wizard by the name of Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) is wreaking havoc throughout Europe — murdering hundreds with the help of his followers — to try to reach his own ideal reality. Following each attack in Europe, fear spreads further and faster throughout the American wizarding community as they struggle to remain hidden during the rise of a “No-Maj,” or non-wizarding, movement called the “Second Salem.” Grindelwald’s methods are anything but subtle and if he comes to the United States, there will be war between Grindelwald’s followers, American Wizards and American No-Majs.
It is under these uncertain conditions that the quirky protagonist, Magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) stumbles onto Ellis Island with a case of magical creatures, inadvertently revealing the Wizarding World to No-Maj Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) and turning an innocent mistake into a dangerous scenario when he fails to wipe the No-Maj’s memory. When wizarding sisters Tina (Katherine Waterston) and Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol) then become involved, the situation escalates further as a betrayal results in the four being framed for releasing a dangerous creature in New York City. The film continues by balancing nerve-wracking suspense with the iconic moments of comedy, happiness and pure magic that continuously draws viewers into Rowling’s fantasy world.
Films, though, are not rated solely on their story or plot lines. Some films have amazing stories, but the use of a horrible soundtrack can result in a box office failure. Other films possess amazing special effects, but when paired with cringe worthy plotlines can end up with the same results. “Fantastic Beasts” not only has a compelling story line, but features beautiful costumes that showcase the memorable fashion of the 20’s, special effects that bring the various magical creatures to life and a soundtrack that utilizes both light, airy, dark and suspenseful pieces — several scattered with jazz notes in ode to “The Jazz Age.”
As each of her past works have either addressed societal or historical issues, or were written to aid a charity, “Fantastic Beasts” was never going to be a work created solely for entertainment. The film is based on a short “Harry Potter” textbook that was published in 2001 and raised money for the Comic Relief Foundation, an organization that raises money to end child slavery throughout the world and reunite families separated by poverty. In turn, the movie adaption and expansion of the textbook addresses both historical and societal issues. In regards to history, the character and goals of Grindelwald himself mimic several of Adolf Hitler’s gruesome ideologies. Additionally, many references are made to the Great War, later known as World War I, which concluded not long before the era that the film was set in.
A common theme throughout the movie is the comparison of the United States wizarding laws to England’s wizarding laws, especially in regards to marriage. Lastly, in “Fantastic Beasts,” Rowling created a dark sub-plot about child abuse — showing its cruel effects and how different people try to handle the situation only to make the situation even worse for the victim.
Due to the skill and care with which it was created, there is no need to engage in a “Harry Potter” marathon of any sort to enjoy the beauty of the latest film. From the magical cinematography and compelling storyline to the startling opening and conclusion, new and returning fans will end their film experience eagerly awaiting the series’ next installment.