REVIEW: Fantastic Beasts And Where to Find Them

Let’s make one thing clear. Although I have seen all the Harry Potter movies, and maybe I went to Barnes and Noble for the midnight premiere of books 1-6, I am not a huge Harry Potter fan. To me Harry Potter always seemed a little childish and derivative, like listening to top 40 music. That’s why Fantastic Beasts And Where to Find Them was such a pleasant surprise.

Newt Scamander arrives in 1926 New York, fresh off an expedition studying and cataloging magical beasts around the world for his book. While he plans to stay only long enough to release a particular creature back into the wild, a run-in with an a No-Maj (American Muggle) leads to a number of events that make the movie run 133 minutes.

8:30 + preview + 133 minutes = 11:15
8:30 + preview + 133 minutes = 11:15

Like all the other Harry Potter movies, FBAWTFT looks gorgeous. Combining wizards with 1920’s America was a fantastic idea and someone should give JK Rowling a high-five for that. It was so much fun to see spells flying inside speak-easy’s and upending Model T’s on the street–I only wish Newt’s travels had taken him to other American cities like Chicago and San Francisco as well.


Every actor fit seamlessly into their roles so well that I didn’t miss the Harry Potter characters one bit. Eddie Redmayne as Newt played the perfect awkward scientist, but it was Dan Fogler as Jacob Kowalski that stole every scene with his charm and naivety. Unfortunately, the female characters didn’t seem as well hashed out. Queenie Goldstein, one of the two female leads, is literally nothing but an attractive secretary at the American equivalent of the Ministry of Magic. Maybe it was to add the period feel to the movie, but this series deserves better than one-sided female characters.

JK Rowling took the dark elements from the latter half of the Harry Potter series and ramped them up for FBAWTFT. Unhealthy relationships, from a neglected son to child abuse, pepper the central storyline, which also includes the DEATH SENTENCE as a plot device. I enjoyed that JK Rowling decided to write a movie that was for older audiences, but wow the movie gets dark.

At the same time, there are moments of precious comic relief scattered throughout the movie. DC Comics should study this film in terms of how to balance the light and the dark, because FBAWTFT knows how to make the audience laugh in one scene, and then pull those smiles away in the very next scene.

I left with one question on my mind: how does the movie scale up from here? The final “battle” felt almost like the end of a movie series, leaving New York in tatters (a la The Avengers) and at least two surprises. It felt like JK Rowling pulled out all of the stops as the wizards struggled to contain a dark force attacking the city. Will it be possible to make the action more exciting, or will we start to get fatigued after seeing the same spells, the same special effects, and the same CGI-creatures every outing?

Phillip Wachowiak

I am a graduate student studying physiology. In addition to science, I love to do things with cameras

One thought to “REVIEW: Fantastic Beasts And Where to Find Them”

  1. Please back up your baseless “it’s too childish” patronization of the Harry Potter series with rationale.

    News flash: Marvel, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, etc, are far more tonally and thematically childish than Potter. Explain.

    The darkness of Potter is not confined to some “latter half”. It’s a running theme. Asshole

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