This is not a movie review, at least not a usual one. Last week I went to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. It was on Saturday, actually. For me as a Harry Potter fan it felt like seeing an old friend after a long time. After five years, to be precise. Going into this movie, I had only one concern that they might try too hard to revive the magic and start referencing characters and items from the original books and movies just to pander to audience’s nostalgia and good memories of the previous Harry Potter literary and cinematic installments. In other words, I was afraid that it might be another Jurassic World. Luckily, I got another Fury Road.
There was no need to revive the magic, because it has never been gone. Harry Potter fans have been hungry for new wizarding adventures ever since Deathly Hallows was published, and watching this made me remember the first time I took Chamber of Secrets in my hands, turning pages, and the first time I saw Philosopher’s Stone at the cinema. Yes, I know, Chamber of Secrets is not the first book, but it was the first one I got and the first one I read. After that came Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and then the rest of the books in order for me.
Anyway, Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them gave me everything I wanted to get from another wizarding world experience. The idea of the world expansion is a brilliant in itself, since it will make the entire legendarium feel more real and organic. As much as I like the previous Harry Potter adventures, it wasn’t until the fourth book, when other magic schools were introduced, that it appeared as a world that was and is lived in. Fantastic Beasts provides the same impression and more. This is already a commercial success, but I am glad that it is a good movie first. And at the end, I chuckled at the kind of an unintentional Doctor Parnassus moment, and recognizing Ron Perlman in it was nice, too. In my opinion, this is a film that both people who only saw the Harry Potter movies and people who read the books and saw the movies can equally enjoy. To be fair, I am not speaking on behalf of every member of the audience, but this was 2 hours well spent.
This was a good expansion and a good start to introduce the audience to new characters and new locations. The J. K. Rowling and the magic that she created simply comes through the script, which as every other Harry Potter story, balances between light and dark and talks about important themes in a way that is not aggressive. In the original Harry Potter books and movies, the lead characters were children and then young adults. The characters we follow in Fantastic Beasts are adults, because the audience most drawn into this are people who spent their childhood with wizards and witches and who are now adults themselves. It is warming to see a world that can actually reflect every part of my life, from early teenager days to adulthood, a fictional universe that develops and grows along with those who have been fascinated with it for so long. Wizarding world has so much to offer, and this was clear even when the final book was published.
After five years, it seems that the magical and magnetic Rowling universe invited us back, and with it came all good memories and excitement from the previous installments. Perhaps it is not fair to compare this movie with the rest, but this is only the beginning and a good base for something that can turn into its own established project. Avoiding the use of the word franchise is on purpose, since franchises tend to exist for only commercial purposes. However, this is technically a franchise, but at least it is a one done with care and attention. We know that it is going to be done properly and by the right people.