Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

For the fans of J.K. Rowlings’ world of wizards and the students of Hogwarts, there is nothing as tantalising as a new chapter being introduced to the world. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them opens a new chapter to a hidden magical realm, taking a look back at the history that established this multi-generational obsession. Also, Rowling broadens her influential reach and brings her newest creation to shores of the United States. This celebrated writer proves this storyline is rich with new avenues to explore and without spoiling too much, it was worth the wait.

Upon his arrival into the land of the stars and stripes, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) stops over in New York. As he takes in the sights of the city, he gets drawn into a series of events that cause the release of some of the fantastic beasts that reside in his magical case. In an attempt to corral these creatures, he must enlist the assistance of a No-maj (The American version of muggle) Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) and they must stay two steps ahead of the wizard authorties who want an explanation for their release.

The havoc that Newt’s magical critters create comes at an exceptionally tenuous time between the worlds of wizards and humanity in New York and Newt’s extra-ordinary friends are not helping the situation. The creature conservationist must work with Investigator Porpentina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) to not only find his unique escapees and attempt to find out what is causing destruction and death throughout the Big Apple.

Expect the unexpected when engaging with the new universe of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. It contains some of the familiar elements of Harry Potter, but it is truly a new chapter in Rowlings’ world of wizards. This is an origins story that attempts to find its own place in the canon without being fully reliant on the phenomenon of the original book series.

One component that is different is the intended audience. Harry’s world was enjoyed by both adults and children, the protagonist and the primary thrust of the novels and films was intended for an adolescent audience. This instalment seems to be intended for a mature market. The relationships, the subject matter and dialogue are all handled in the adult realm and may not be as accessible for the younger set. Not that children will not enjoy it, but this is a noticeable change from  the Harry Potter storyline. Yet, this does not diminish the quality of the overall experience.

Director David Yates was brought back after being at the helm for the last four Harry Potter films and he successfully continues the look and feel of the magical environment. Being set in 1920’s America, gives him a new canvas to create his art upon. He effectively incorporates the culture of the U.S. prohibition era, but still supplies the needed elements to honour the Potter heritage. Because most of the story will be relatively new for audiences, the seasoned director is left with new character and story development. Managing the expectations of the established fan base, Yates effectively makes this new chapter stand on its own.

Eddie Redmayne and the surrounding cast are well chosen for the continuance of this spellbinding saga. Redmayne plays to his strengths and is captivating in the lead role and Katherine Waterston provides the critical foil to the protagonist. Dan Fogler is the stand out in the new ensemble and holds his own as the primary representative of humanity amongst the wizards. He provides the needed humour and human element to play on the emotions of the crowd. The vast majority of this new adventure from the cast to the sets to the creatures themselves make for an entertaining and captivating experience.

Yates and Rowlings have done their best work to set up a new franchise for a generation that grew up on Harry Potter and is looking for the next stage in the multiverse. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them will whet the appetite and make audiences looking for more from Newt and his fantastic beasts.

Reel Dialogue: What are the bigger questions to consider from this film?

At the heart of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the idea of conservation. Newt Scamander does have magical abilities, but his role is to care for rare creatures from around the spiritual and natural world.

In the real world, the belief in animal conservation can take on different levels of consideration. Some are exceptionally good and should be supported to save animals from extinction. Unfortunately, some organisations have taken it to such an extreme that it has become unappealing and heavy handed. So, what does the Bible have to say about this topic?

One of the first commands from God to mankind was to take care of his created beasts. The challenge is to not allow these beasts to take precedence over the care of humanity or to get in the way of our service of God. Like most things, they are to have a place in God’s world, but the created should never diminish the focus on the Creator.

  1. Should we care about the animal kingdom? (Genesis 1:26-28, Proverbs 27:23, Colossians 1:16, Matthew 6:26)
  2. What does the Bible say wizardry and magic? (Leviticus 19:31, Galatians 5: 19-21, Revelation 22:15)

WATCH THE TRAILER

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Russell Matthews

Russell loves film and enjoys engaging in discussions about the latest cinema offerings and then connecting this with the Gospel. He has worked for City Bible Forum for over 10 years, is a reviewer for Insights Magazine and Entertainment Fuse and has a blog called Russelling Reviews. He moderates events for Reel Dialogue which connect the film industry with the general public.