The Wizarding World comes stateside in Fantastic Beasts


by Andrew Tyrrell, Managing Editor

If there’s anything that American fans of Harry Potter wanted more than another film or novel, it was a film or novel set in the United States.

Between the seven Harry Potter novels, the extra novellas, the screenplay for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the new play, and the eight original films, fans of J.K. Rowling’s fantasy series are very familiar with how the world of magic works in the UK.

But what about the United States? For years American fans have wondered what the wizarding world is like here, and save for a few recently published pieces on Pottermore regarding the founding of Ilvermorny (an American wizarding school located in Western Massachusetts), there hasn’t been much more than speculation.

That all changed, finally, with the release of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the first new Harry Potter film in half a decade.

Taking place in New York City in the 1920s, the film follows famous Hufflepuff Newt Scamander, played by Academy Award winning actor Eddie Redmayne, on what was meant to be a quest to learn more about the magical creatures that inhabit North America.

But, like anything in the world of Harry Potter, things don’t exactly go Scamander’s way.

As a plot unfolds involving the famed dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald, we get to see just how different the American wizarding community is compared to the more familiar British wizarding community.

Some of the differences are purely in the lingo, such as “no-maj” replacing the British term “muggle” for non-magical folk. Additionally, instead of a Minister for Magic there is a President who heads the Magical Congress of the United States.

The most important differences, though, are sure to play a major role in the next four films.

That’s right kids, it’s a five-part series.

Surely taking inspiration from the 2016 Presidential Election, we find the magical community in the States closing off all relations with their no-maj counterparts.

This includes not marrying those with non-magical blood, something that is quite common in the British wizarding world.

In the interest of keeping this as spoiler free as possible, I’ll neglect going into further detail, but I will say that there are parallels to some of the darker aspects of American society that are echoed in the film.

The film itself is rather unlike the other films we’ve seen in the Potter universe. While there is still that sense of adventure and wonder, it’s a more grown-up film that deals with grown-up ideas.

Not that the original films didn’t, but they’re presented in the forefront of the film; they are the problem at hand.

Rowling has made it clear that the film was just as much for those who grew up with the series as well as for younger viewers getting their first introduction into the wizarding world.

The film is also funnier than its predecessors. The comic relief is provided mostly by Dan Fogler, who plays the lovable no-maj Jacob Kowalski.

Though the previous Potter films had their moments, the comedy was a bigger part of this film, just as the aforementioned darker themes are.

Given that the film is led by an Academy Award winning actor, it’s safe to say that the acting is spectacular.

Redmayne plays Scamander perfectly, since he is just as awkward as the character he portrays. Colin Farrell and Ezra Miller (star of the upcoming Flash film) also deliver as top billed actors.

Cinematically, it is as stunning as any Potter film that preceded it. The only complaint this writer has is that the film was meant for 3D, and because of this some of the camera work can be a tad dizzying.

This writer will also admit that he suffers from motion sickness and had a headache coming on in the theater, so take that criticism with a grain of salt.

Overall, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a good film. It has solid acting, good comedy, a great villain, and a solid plot.

It also gives the viewer just enough information about the American wizarding community and the events that lead up to the Sorcerer’s Stone to keep us hungry for the next film.

If you need your Harry Potter fix, and want your appetite whetted for more, go see this movie immediately.

I give it four and a half wands out of five.

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