Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the originally crafted prequel to J.K Rowling’s infamous Harry Potter book and film series. It takes place in the Wizarding World in 1920’s, United States of America and follows the genius British wizard Newt Scamander, as he ventures to New York City to find a rare creature to gift as a birthday present for a loved one back home. However trouble ensues as he takes his suitcase filled with majestic fantastic beasts along the journey across the pond.
When he arrives he discovers the Wizarding community is in it’s own black hole of doom with No – Maj’s (non – magic folk) at risk of being exposed to their world. With people (No – Maj’s) like the Salem Seconders who fear that witches exist in New York and want to burn them at the stake like in the 1800s and the MACUSA (Magical Congress of the United States of America) laws and regulations about magic under threat, it was a mystical insane adventure waiting to unfold in a riddikulus fashion.
The film was in the classic Potter style that we all love except 70 odd years before Harry Potter entered Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Fun fact Newt went to Hogwarts too and that’s the place Harry found Newt’s book about how to deal with and find the incredible beings. Unlike the Harry Potter films it does not involve underage wizards and magic schools i.e Hogwarts, although they do mention the most popular wizarding school in America – Ilvermorny (my house is Thunderbird according to Pottermore).
I would say it would appeal to an older generation of Muggles or No – Maj’s because I believe Rowling’s stories got older as the group of people who began watching the films as sprogs grew up and they will understand the HP references. It is less about family and one character and more about the bigger problems of creatures roaming the streets of New York and the politics behind it. However I do believe that children are wiser than us all, so they will enjoy it very much and Jacob (No – Maj) and the creatures do make it very light-hearted and comical.
Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander knocked it out of the Quidditch match with his brilliant performance as the preeminent magizoologist and talked and interacted with the creatures as if they were his own children, so gentle and stern simultaneously. He really understood the way a wizard was supposed to be played and was very funny seeing him take the ‘mating dance’ with the Erumpet so seriously.
Additionally it was also intriguing seeing the connection Eddie had with co-star Katherine Waterston who played Porpentina ‘Tina’ Goldstein an ex-investigator at MACUSA. She was at first wanting to turn him in to the President for exposing magic and having a briefcase filled with beasts causing mayhem around NYC, but then grew to like what he wanted to do and tried to help him out of strife. I believe there was an underlying romantic tension with those two, I’m shipping Newtina so hard!
How can I forget Dan Fogler as the quirky and hilarious Jacob Kowalski who is the only one out of the four main characters who is non – magic. He joins Newt as his new best pal (as he learns in the end, he meant a great deal to Newt throughout the journey) as they accidentally switch cases and Jacob unravels a world he never dreamed of and he even states in the movie ‘I ain’t got the brains to make this up.’ They decide not to cast the spell to make him forget everything he has witnessed known as Obliviate, the Potter geek in me was ecstatic when they used those spells (also Accio, Expelliarmus, Alohomora…freaking out with joy). He develops a crush on Tina’s sister Queenie played by Alison Sudol who is a witch with the power to read minds, known as Legilimency. She plays a fun, free-spirited New York girl with curiosity by default, as she can’t help hearing others thoughts and grows to have feelings for Jacob too.
Colin Farrell was daring, evil and sly in his portrayal of Percival Graves the the Director of Magical Security for MACUSA, who is in charge of the protection of wizards and set with the task of tracking down Newt. He was trying to find the Obscurus (It is explained to be a dark force inadvertently created by young children who suppress their magic, out of fear of discovery or persecution by the non-magical community. A side effect of this magic is that the child hosts of Obscuruses, known as Obscurials, die before the age of 10.) which turned out to be Credence Barebone played by Ezra Miller.
Ezra has an amazing arc in the story going from innocent orphan abused by his witch hunt frenzied foster-mother; to revealing that he was the child possessed by the Obscurus. Fueled by his rage for Graves, Credence unleashes the full power of the Obscurus. Later Graves is revealed to be the notorious dark wizard Gellert Grindlewald (played by the one and only Johnny Depp) and you believe him the entire tale that he might be somewhat good because he was working for Madame President.
I have to give a shout-out to the incomparable animators, special effects and set designers etc for their work is always top-notch and they keep topping themselves with their creations and raw talent. I especially loved the hugely dragon-like Swooping Evil and the cutest, jewel-loving, mischievous mole-like Niffler.
Overall it was a one of a kind J.K Rowling creation (her first screenplay) with all the perfect elements to make it heart-felt, spellbinding, creatures galore and an incredible cast to boot. A hit for all the Potterheads out there, different but still as magical as ever. You don’t want to miss this one and Rowling and David Yates the director have signed on to do 4 more films for the Fantastic Beasts series. Hold on to your wands it’s going to be a bumpy ride!
I give this J.K Rowling masterpiece a 4.5/5!
Review by Ellen Goddard, 2016