Prequels are a fickle thing for movie fans. They oftentimes never turn out as good as what the audience would expect. Take the Star Wars movie prequels, for example. In the original trilogy, George Lucas and team made references to events that didn’t happen in those films but left the viewers wanting to know more about the history of the world he created. Roughly 25 years later, Lucas decided to revisit the wonderful world of Star Wars by introducing Star Wars: The Phantom Menace which showed the origins of the famous villain Darth Vadar and his rise and fall from good to evil. The hype for the film was something out of this world and nothing like any moviegoer had ever seen before. 

When the film was released, so were some of the worst reviews imaginable. Dialogue, storytelling, acting, and directing were all raked over the fiery hot coals of fandom. The fans hated the prequels because they did not meet the expectations of the stories they grew up watching and loving. 

All that to say, it’s hard for to tell a wonderful story then dial back to its history and keep the same magic the fans loved, but in the case of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, director David Yates and storywriter J.K. Rowling proved to everyone that spins-offs and history within a popular mythology can be just as great as the stories that built the universe around them. 

The story is as follows: 

“Seventy years before Harry Potter read his book while studying at Hogwarts, Newt Scamander, a young writer and activist wizard, travels from England to New York carrying a briefcase filled with various magical creatures. Upon arriving in New York, Newt finds himself chasing down escaped creatures and getting involved with witch and wizard affairs that lead him on an unexpected adventure.” 

There isn’t much to be said about this movie other than it’s “fantastic.” Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them reopened the door for Harry Potter fans once again. 

The story was a fun and adventurous. The movie takes place in the 1920’s and in America, which was a good choice in my opinion. It was interesting to see the same magical world in a different setting. The time frame in which the movie takes places was interesting because as an viewer and history buff I could see similar parallels between the fictional and non fictional aspects of the films. J.K. Rowling did a wonderful job at capturing the essence of the roaring 20’s while keeping the feel of the magical Harry Potter world. 

My favorite thing about this movie was the references made involving Harry Potter, even though the movie is set 70 years before he is even born. Though “easter eggs” can somewhat be annoying if not done right in movies, Rowling and Yates found ways to make the references flow beautifully without throwing them done the readers throats. The best reference is the story of the film itself. “Seventy years before Harry Potter read his book while studying at Hogwarts.” That alone is great to know fans are seeing stories Potter read while in school. It’s crazy and weird, but I like it. 

The story itself was a well written adventure story that was easy to follow. That was one of the movies best qualities because it didn’t have too much backstory for the audience to try and piece together. The cast and score throughout the film was great as well.

If anyone hasn’t taken the chance to go see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, you should. I give this film a solid 4 ½ stars out of 5. 

(Zachary Carlisle is a resident of Heber Springs and writes entertainment reviews as well as other stories of local interest for The Sun Times. Check out his blog at SaltyGrave.blogspot.com)