Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’: Tackling Bigger Monsters


Abigail Brunn

In a magical world of shapeshifting snakes and pilfering platypi, could humanity pose the greatest threat? For indisputable philanthropist and quintessential Hufflepuff, Newt Scamander, the theory seems all too plausible. “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” transports devoted fans and muggles alike into a new realm of witchcraft and wizardry. A story of preserving wildlife, challenging governmental influence, and embracing individuality, the fantastic film seems to have an unexpectedly realistic edge.

Set in 1920s New York City, “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them” creates a magic of its own. Bustling streets, towering skyscrapers, and mustard-topped hot dogs immerse viewers into the uncharted universe of early 20th century America. J.K. Rowling, the reason for Harry Potter’s existence and sole screenwriter for the film, adds her own twist — the unlikely protagonist himself, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne). Scamander, joined by comical no-maj, or non-magical person, Kowalski (Dan Fogler), and ambitious witch, Tina (Katherine Waterston), travels throughout the city, from Macy’s Department Store to goblin-owned speakeasies. But there’s a catch: Scamander, avid lover of all fantastic beasts, has brought some creatures along in his suitcase. They, too, have decided to explore the city — on their own.

Scamander’s subsequent journey is not only one of recovering creatures; it is one of discovering himself. Like a selfless and loyal Hufflepuff, Scamander fights to defend his beasts from “millions of the most vicious creatures on the planet — humans.” He defies orders from an oppressive government — Rowling’s version of Potter’s Ministry of Magic, the Magical Congress of the United States of America — to protest the state of creature rights. He mentors a young wizard, freeing him from suppression and the puritanical grasp of an anti-wizardry organization, the Second Salem Preservation Society. He exposes the man whose bleached blonde mohawk and infamous name appear on every magical newspaper throughout the wizarding world.

The beauty of the film is not found in Rowling’s shy protagonist or his boy-next-door British charm. Nor is it found in the brilliant cinematography behind window-shopping monkeys and Arizona-bound dragons. It is found in Scamander’s attempts to save his creatures and friends from the world’s most terrible beasts — humans. With the help of an otherworldly cast and captivating story line, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” transforms a fantastic tale into a modern social statement. No magic needed.