Fantastic Beasts was a solid prequel to the wizarding world of Harry Potter. Set in 1926, magizoologist Newt Scamander, a former student from Hogwarts, is traveling through New York City on his way to Arizona to release his Thunderbird back to it’s home environment. His magical suitcase holds many of his fantastic beasts, but a creature escapes and his chase through a bank connects him with a no-maj (American term for Muggles) baker Jacob Kowalski, and arouses the suspicions of Tina Goldstein who is a fellow wizard who works for The Magical Congress of the United States of America.
Through an unintentional mix up of suitcases with Jacob, many of the creatures escape into the city, with Newt and Tina paring up to collect them. Jacob is drawn into the hunt, along with Tina’s flirty sister Queenie who is a Legilimen and can read minds. The scenes with the magical beasts were delightful. I loved anything to do with Niffler and seeing the habitats that Newt created for his menagerie of animals. The interactions between the four heroes were authentic and fresh, and the relationships between them all leave room for growth. I also liked that Newt was a Hufflepuff as proved by his scarf, for I am one according to Pottermore, and this house needed a wizard that is more than just kind and steady but forgettable! (You must watch this video by Eddie Redmayne about how awesome the Hufflepuffs truly are!)
We also meet human Mary Lou Barebone, who is on a witch hunt, along with several of her adopted children. One of the MACUSA officials, Percival Graves, feels that Credence Barebone can lead him to a powerful Obscurus which is a dark and dangerous power that is formed when a child tries to obscure their powers. Graves creepily encourages Credence in rather inappropriate ways to betray his family. At first rebuffed by the MACUSA, Graves later takes notice and mistakenly accuses Newt and Tina of killing a senator, so they are sentenced to death. They escape with the help of Jacob and Queenie, and the Obscurus is exposed and rains destruction down on the city. How they fight this danger and what is revealed at the end of the movie, sets up the story for further sequels.
I was not happy at all with the end reveal about Grindelwald. The actor who will go forth in these movies is known for his over the top campy roles, and I am worried his look will take away from the seriousness of the role. Plus, isn’t he too old to be Gellert in 1926? I had really enjoyed the creepy vibe that Graves and Creedence were giving off, so I hope this disclosement doesn’t mean that the actors Colin Ferrell and Ezra Miller will no longer be in the sequels.
While this movie prequel series was originally set to be three movies, it has been adjusted to five, for Rowling says she has a lot of story to cover in the years between 1926-1945. That might be so, but I think five movies is over kill and a grab for money by the studios. I’m certainly willing to see the next movie, for while there were some drawbacks for me, this movie was a fun trip back to the Potter universe!