Flawed Prequels(and Whether Or Not To See Them)

What happens when Hollywood adapts the entirety of a popular book series? They demand prequels and spinoffs, of course! So, since the entire “Harry Potter” book series has been adapted into film, the prequel is upon us! “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” a prequel set 70 years before the events of “Harry Potter,” is meant to kick off a five movie series. Is this movie actually setting up a great new story that expands on the magical world of “Harry Potter,” or is it just a shameless cash grab?

The main character of the movie is Eddie Redmayne’s character Newt Scamander. Scamander is a magizoologist who believes that magical creatures are not horrible monsters though most other characters seem to think that they are. He’s an interesting character, but its hard to see why he specifically is set to be the main character of five movies. Even with the unanswered questions the film leaves about Scamander’s past, he feels more like a character who is likeable and unique enough to get one movie, but who should also then step aside and be a supporting character in someone else’s.

Scamander’s romantic interest is an American Auror named Porpentina Goldstein, who is played by Katherine Waterston. She isn’t a bad character, but it feels like she isn’t allowed to convey enough positive emotions during the movie. Every other major character at least gets to have one scene where they are happy about something, but she seems to be constantly depressed. On the other hand, Porpentina’s sister, Queenie, who is played by Alison Sudol, is the most entertaining character in the movie. She deserves to be the main character of the sequel.

One major difference between “Fantastic Beasts” and “Harry Potter” is the fact that “Fantastic Beasts” has a Muggle in the main cast. Dan Fogler’s Jacob Kowalski is a non-magical person who ends up caught up in Scamander’s adventure. While he is often used for comedic relief, it is still interesting to actually see a Muggle being portrayed positively in the “Harry Potter” universe. His journey from being scared by magic to wishing he could be a wizard is understandable and entertaining. Hopefully he continues to be important in the sequels.

Colin Farrell portrays the antagonist of the film, Percival Graves. Farrell does a good job making the character seem intimidating. The plot twist regarding Graves at the end really negatively impacts the character, however, making him look like a less competent villain.

Johnny Depp also is thrown in to make a last minute cameo as Gellert Grindelwald, the overall villain of the prequel series. While learning more of the story that led up to Dumbledore’s defeat of Grindelwald is bound to be of interest to “Harry Potter” fans, Grindelwald’s inclusion feels like it is unnecessary and a rather weak way to introduce such a major villain. Just having Grindelwald’s name get thrown around without having him appear physically would have built him up as a more intimidating villain and left audiences eager to find out what he was up to. Instead of clumsily throwing in Grindelwald, the film should have left Graves as the main antagonist.

As the title would suggest, “Fantastic Beasts” does have some fantastic beasts. Scamander’s collection of magical creatures alone proves that J.K. Rowling, the author of the “Harry Potter” books and writer of “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” still has plenty of great ideas for new additions to the wizarding world. Many of the magical creatures have very creative designs.

Another interesting thing about “Fantastic Beasts” is that it is set in America. Hopefully the “Harry Potter” prequels continue to expand the scope of the story show the wizarding worlds of various countries. It’s certainly interesting to know that the American wizards weren’t allowed to marry non-magic people and could apparently be sentenced to death without a trial.  

At the end of the day, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” is an enjoyable enough movie with some major problems. One major one is that it really doesn’t feel like the start of a five movie series. While he is entertaining, it is hard to see why Scamander is a character who needs five movies. A sequel centering around Queenie and Kowalski really sounds far more entertaining. As a standalone movie, “Fantastic Beasts” has some really fun moments and introduces more concepts to the “Harry Potter” universe, even if the ending has some major problems. As the beginning of a new movie series, “Fantastic Beasts” really should give off a stronger sense of the direction the series is going to take. Given the fact that J.K Rowling has apparently already finished writing the sequel, she clearly has a plan for where the series is going. This movie simply does not convey that plan well enough. Overall, “Fantastic Beasts” simply is not as good as “Harry Potter,” but it is certainly worth seeing for “Harry Potter” fans.

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