The film opens with the familiar strains of John Williams musical score (composed this time by John Newton Howard) and title credit. You feel as if you have returned to Harry Potter’s magical world. However, this time, we are introduced to Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), an English immigrant who is visiting Manhattan during the Jazz Age of the 1920s.
Being a Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry graduate, Newt has a magic briefcase that cages many fantastic beasts with mythical powers. When one creature jimmies the lock, chaos erupts and the wizard community is perplexed. The most disgruntled wizard is Graves (Colin Farrell), who masks a hidden agenda.
Fortunately for Newt, he makes friends with Tina (Katherine Waterston), a demoted bureaucrat who works for the Manhattan wizard community. Newt also gains street smarts from Kowalski (Dan Fogler), a man who would like to start his own business as a baker. Together, these three strangers form a unique partnership to protect the fantastic beasts in the United States of America.
Whereas the Harry Potter stories were about the rites of passage for an individual who goes from sixth grade to high school graduation, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the story about adults. Scamanger is a more traditional hero like Indiana Jones, Frank Buck and Marlin Perkins. With less emphasis upon growing maturity, Fantastic Beasts presents a series of adventures featuring mythical creatures in a familiar city like Manhattan.
With the exception of a plot reveal that ties into her last book (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows), Fantastic Beasts is a fresh look into Rowling’s world. Seeing Manhattan in 1926 broadens the magical world, yet Fantastic Beasts shows us the darkness revealed in human nature, like child abuse and social bigotry.
With four more Fantastic Beasts movies planned for the not too-distant future, you can see a bright future for Rowling’s new project. It is the weakest of the Harry Potter franchise, but, hopefully, the Fantastic Beasts franchise will improve upon each film in the future.