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Is Fantastic Beasts worthy successor to Harry Potter?

Posted on Wednesday, December 7, 2016 at 10:10 am

fantastic beasts

By Peter Covino

A&E Editor

Okay, so I wasn’t all that impressed with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

I probably was in the minority because I was not squealing with excitement that J.K. Rowling had consented to continue her world of wizarding with a new original story and a new film where she even wrote the screenplay. And while the movie has some pleasures, it just doesn’t live up to the hype.

But it is ambitious. There is a lot going on here, more than meets the eye, and with four more films in the works, I still am interested to see where all of this is heading.

And I am not necessarily talking about a third attraction at Universal Orlando Resort.

While there are all sorts of creatures about, the main story here has new wizard, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) a Brit on his first visit to the states in 1926. Newt has that magical bag of his in tow, a gateway to the fantastic beasts he is protecting. (The title of the book actually does reflect back to Harry Potter and friends. It was a textbook that was required reading at Hogwarts).

These are political times. The Great Depression is looming, even if it is still the Roaring 20s. And Hitler, Mussolini and World War II itself is barely a decade in the future. I would not be surprised at all if Rowling, who has already made comparisons to Donald Trump and modern fascism, plays this out subtlely or not so subtlely in the future films. Wizards have already gone underground in New York City because they live in fear of the No-Majs (called Muggles back in Britain).

There are light moments throughout, the creatures Newt collects are mostly of the playful sort, but in its own way, Fantastic Beasts is more adult than any of the Harry Potter stories, probably because it’s audience also is that much older as well.

I will keep the few secrets in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (like who really is that bad wizard played by Colin Farrell) for when you see the film.

But no matter what, this will be going in an entirely different direction, especially since Rowling already has Potter going off in a direction of its own with Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Rowling has already said the five-film series will take place over a course of 19 years. Doing the math, that puts the series at end in 1945, the same year World War II ended.

That cannot be ignored, for sure. And it is intriguing.

I may just find myself mixed up in this new world of wizards after all.

Note: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them crossed the $500 million box office mark last week with more than $161 million on the domestic side.

It will probably be the seventh or eighth biggest film of the year, depending on what happens with the big Christmas releases in the coming weeks.