“Fantastic Beasts” welcomes fans back into the wizarding world


This year has been a rough one, to say the least. For most, it’s the perfect time for the wizarding world of Harry Potter to come around to help alleviate some of the heaviness the real-world can accumulate as the New Year approaches. You’d think by now, us muggles would learn to suppress our addiction to this unhealthy escapism, but sadly, it’s not that easy.
Wizards, witches and wands are our drugs. And J.K. Rowling is our dealer.
This time around, the next fix takes form as a prequel to the original Harry Potter series and Rowling’s screenwriting debut with “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” An overall solid entry to the magical pantheon. However, longtime fans of the series can’t help but shake the feeling the movie is missing the bewitching charm Harry’s story developed within the halls of Hogwarts. That’s because “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” lacks atmosphere.
With the original series, fans were taken to the magical world—and yes, I get that the concept was fresh and new and the initial feeling of being thrown through the walls of Platform 9 ¾  will never be recreated. But when an imaginative, fictional world created of almost entirely new things is traded for 1920s era New York, there’s a noticeable distance between a world to be discovered and one we already have.
Alternatively, there are new additions to the arsenal a wizard has in “Beasts,” and whether it be new hypnotic incantations or creatures only a mind like Rowling’s could come up with, it’s refreshing to see the universe being expanded upon.
The characters are fleshed out as well. The story is based off a textbook Harry had to get for a class in the original series, only referenced a handful of times so the initial source material must have been limited. But Rowling did what she does best and with the short time she’s been equipped with to tell her new tale, her best development is shown in her new cast of characters.
However, the story does little to give these characters some breathing room to evolve at a comfortable pace. Unlike the original cast—who, again, had a whole middle and high school education’s length to develop—the “Beasts” crew feels crammed into the first installment of an already planned trilogy.
It’s sad to say, but sitting in the theater watching the movie, much of the new story came off as an expansion rather than a new implementation of old ideas. Where too many things were the same and unchanged—story template, bad guys, the opposing Ministry of Magic—all felt like they were left untouched, save for an accent change. And after some time has passed, fans seem to agree.
Ever since its Nov. 18 release, “Beasts” has completely destroyed the box office, doubling its budget in the opening week alone. Critics have also been singing its praise, with a “certified fresh” badge being flaunted on nearly every TV commercial for the film. But as the weeks go on and the premiere date is further and further away, people have begun to realize the cracks in the narrative since the dust has settled. Blog entries, YouTube videos and tweets by the thousands have been picking apart the new film for all its inconsistencies and flaws that can be found throughout the two-hour run time; perhaps proving to fans that Rowling has overstayed her welcome with the childhood tale she no longer has the head and heart for.
But I don’t think that’s the case. There’s enough here for something big, something new. The dissonance between the original films and this one is noticeable, but not devastating. Now that Rowling has her footing in a new era of the Harry Potter universe, the only thing fans can do is have a little faith, grab their stock-made wands and wait.
There’s something magical here and as the title explains, it’s just knowing where to look.