As I’m starting The 12 Crafts of Christmas soon, I thought I’d forgo I Made That! Monday in favour or something a little different.
Today’s topic: one of my favourites. Harry Potter. How fabulous it is to be talking Witchcraft and Wizardly again with new conversational material! This time I’m branching from my usual book reviews and giving my two cents on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them!
(I still haven’t gotten round to getting my thoughts on The Cursed Child penned, because I just have so many unruly feelings to tame – also I am so wary of sharing spoilers #keepthesecrets)
Apologies in advance, but this review will clearly be skewed in favour, as I was always going to love this film (J.K, my queen). I will be fair – this film isn’t perfect, after all. Even if I have already seen it twice…
Overview / Summary:
Newt Scamander (the ever charming Eddie Redmayne) is a magizoologist, travelling the globe researching magical creatures for a book he’s writing.
One of his final stops is New York, where he has an unfortunate switch-a-roo with his case and that of poor Jacob Kowalski, who just wants to get enough of a loan to open a bakery. Dan Fogler‘s fabulous Jacob, the “no-maj” (Americanism for muggle), is a delight, playing the comedic sidekick to Newt, an unwitting accomplice as several of the creatures escape and cause havoc.
Before Newt can track them down, he’s apprehended by Tina, a well-meaning witch who used to be an auror, but has been bumped down to the magical equivalent of the mail room for doing a Bad Thing.
Eventually, Newt and Jacob, accompanied by Tina and her amazing sister Queenie, go on the hunt for Newt’s – not at all dangerous – escaped menagerie.
Meanwhile, there’s some interesting, slightly related things happening in 1920’s New York. Chillingly awful Mary-Lou Barebone, leader of the NY New Salem Philanthropic Society – an American anti-witchcraft group – is trying to raise awareness of magical presence and waging a campaign of hatred and suspicion towards witches and wizards she suspects are inhabiting the city.
Also playing important parts of this story are: Madam President Seraphina Picquery doing everything she can to prevent a wizard/muggle war breaking out, her seemingly-a-bit-shady head of Magical Law Enforcement Percival Graves (Colin Farrell) and Mary-Lou’s adopted son, Credence, who might not be playing for the same side as his mother.
A feature I learnt from my ever favourite film-review bloggers, Christa and Jill – I’ll leave you here to wonder: will Newt track down all his beasts safely? Will the Second Salem witch hunters get wind of the magical folk in New York? Will Jacob ever get to open his bakery? And most importantly, where the hell does Johnny Depp fit in?
Okay I loved it.
Eddie Redmayne is always great in my opinion, and this film is no different. His Newt Scamander is a refreshing magical hero – He’s a Hufflepuff! While we’re used to heroic, brave, unwaveringly brilliant Gryffindor protagonists, Newt is a little different. It’s obvious he has a good heart, though he clearly has a better connection with his creatures than with other people. He’s slightly awkward and feels more at home with his beasts which he protects and nurtures and loves, almost to a fault, despite their ability to harm the population. He’s still a good person, but it’s nice to have a little bit of something else to a lead character as well.
His budding friendship with Jacob is also great – I love them together. Their buddy-buddy adventure moments are really fun and experiencing Newt’s world as Jacob is introduced to all the creatures was one of my favourite sequences.
Speaking of Jacob, I can’t mention him without mentioning Queenie. Queenie is fabulous – I like that we learn more about legilimency through her and that even though I was slightly worried her beauty was going to be her defining characteristic – the stereotypical “pretty girl” of the gang – she’s got so much more power because she’s in your mind and hearing your thoughts.
Like I mentioned earlier, this film isn’t perfect (though I’m wont to focus on the good bits). I felt like it could have had more “beasts” in it – I know we see lots but only a few are properly introduced – after all, they’re in the title. I didn’t like the casting of Johnny Depp either. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Captain Jack, but he’s such a famous face and he just didn’t fit with this movie. When he appeared it completely took me out of the story, and that’s a shame, because I was really into it.
There was also a lot of subplots and other things going on – lots of information shoved into a single movie. This may be complex worldbuilding on the part of J.K – to fit in with what we alrady know from the Fantastic Beasts textbook – but it could also be an effort to put enough meat in here to drag it out to the supposed five films (I’m unconvinced this is necessary).
But in the end, it was a great instalment in the HP universe. Fantastic Beasts has a lot of interesting tie ins and worldbuilding on what fans already know, and for non-Potterheads it’s still a fun, magical film with enough emotion to leave me misty-eyed at one point.
Forget it / Own it / See it again?
Who am I kidding, as soon as it’s available this will be gracing my shelf of DVDs. I’d also see it for a third time – if I can find anybody who’ll indulge me!