Nifflers, Mooncalfs and Thunder Birds Oh My!
J.K. Rowling has done it again. Almost nine years after the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Rowling managed to put the entire muggle world back under her spell. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, directed by David Yates and written by Rowling herself, is a delightful welcome back to the Wizarding World.
Fantastic Beasts takes place in 1926 New York, 70 years before the events of Harry Potter. We’re introduced to Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), a magizoologist who brings a suitcase full of magical beasts to New York. Some accidentally escape and cause havoc all over the city. He gains the help of magical sisters Tina (Katherine Waterston) and Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol) and muggle Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) to find them while avoiding being arrested by the Magical Council of the United States of America.
This is all taking place while Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp), the dark wizard who provided Voldemort with inspiration, unleashes terror across Europe. Grindelwald believes in a wizard master race and will do anything to achieve his ends.
Fantastic Beasts is a funny, intense, beautifully directed and filmed movie that offers both the casual viewer and the intense Harry Potter fan a glimpse into not only American wizarding society, but also Rowling’s politics and talent for worldbuilding.
Even more so than the Potter movies, Fantastic Beasts feels like Rowling. It’s infused with her dark, dry, crude humor and often controversial political views in a way the Potter directors were never able to truly capture.
Rowling has always been outspoken politically on a wide range of issues. Unapologetically liberal, the Harry Potter books served as her platform to voice her opinions and concerns about racism, women’s rights and war. Fantastic Beasts is infused with her opinions about religious extremism, segregation and children’s rights. In perfect Rowling style, her messages are subtle, but powerful.
Also unlike the Harry Potter films, which always aired on the light side, Fantastic Beasts dared to be as dark and potentially upsetting as the original Harry Potter Books. In an effort to appeal to more people, and keep the movies to a PG-13 rating or less, directors and writers toned down the books’ more dark and heavy moments. Yates and Rowling make no such effort with Fantastic Beasts. Instead, viewers enter the Wizarding World that Rowling created: dark, scary and full of monsters.
The Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them franchise gives Rowling the chance to bring her worldbuilding vision to the big screen in the way she intended it. For the first time, Rowling is writing and has complete control over how her meticulously constructed world is portrayed on the big screen.
And so far, she’s proved herself. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is clever, funny and an overall well-done movie. For her first screenplay, Rowling delights and inspires once again. Harry’s story may be finished, but Rowling has a lot left in her and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them proved that. I can’t wait to see where she takes us next.
Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of Fantastic Beasts’ Facebook page.
Sara Karlovitch is a freshman journalism and government and politics major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.