Petrificus Totalus! Great. Now that I have your undivided attention, it is time to talk about some fantastic beasts and, incidentally, where to find them. I hope that you did the prescribed reading of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and have familiarised yourself with the seminal work of Newt Scamander, possibly the greatest Magiczooologist to have lived in modern wizarding times.
The movie, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016), has been released in cinemas across the world for general Muggle enjoyment. In this particular movie we are given a glimpse into Newt Scamander’s life. Newt (played by Eddie Redmayne) finds himself in New York City in 1926, having travelled to the USA to return an illegally trafficked magical beast to its natural habitat. Newt carries with him a nondescript suitcase that houses a magical menagerie of fantastic beasts. The bag is accidentally opened, resulting in several magical beasts being released into New York City. Newt tries to locate the escaped creatures with the aid of a NoMaj (the American version of Muggle) and an employee of the Magical Congress of the USA (MACUSA).
In the movie, we are also introduced to the issues that American witches and wizards face at the hand of anti-magic sentiments growing in the American population. Mary Lou (Samantha Morton) is one such particularly vile opponent of magic, and she has a habit of abusing the children she fosters in an effort to meld them to her anti-magic views. To further complicate things, there is an unknown entity tormenting the citizens of New York City. MACUSA’s Aurors, headed by Percival Graves (Colin Farrell), are struggling to keep everything under control and the magical world a secret. MACUSA falls under the scrutiny of the world’s magical councils when the damage and deaths in New York threatens to expose the magical community. Eventually it comes to light that the wizard to blame for some of these strange occurrences is none other than awkward hero of the hour, Newt Scamander and his bag of beasts.
Newt is given his fair amount of challenges, thanks to these issues coupled with the missing fantastic beasts. In fact, there are enough concurrent stories to keep you wanting more. As such, you cannot help but fall in love with the awkwardly loveable Newt Scamander and root for him to succeed.
The titular fantastic beasts that make appearances in the movie are so well done. If you have read the original Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them book (published in 2001) then you are definitely in for a treat. Without a doubt, the magical beast that many have fallen in love with most is the niffler. Ridiculously cute and mischievous, these nifflers look very much like echidnas, an animal found in Australia. In the movie, the niffler’s antics were hilarious to watch and ensured that he would be forever loved in the Harry Potter canon.
An aspect of the movie that I was initially dubious of, was the inclusion of a NoMaj character by the name of Kowalski (Dan Fogler). Luckily my fears were unfounded and I thoroughly enjoyed Fogler’s portrayal of a NoMaj. His inclusion as the love interest for Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol), the sister to Porpentina “Tina” Goldstein (Katherine Waterson), and eventual sister-in-law to Newt Scamander, was unexpected yet worked so well. Fogler is very likeable as a hardworking New Yorker trying to make it in the world, who just so happens to get embroiled in a lot of magical shenanigans.
At first blush, it is challenging to like the Goldstein sisters. Porpentina is a to-the-letter MACUSA employee, while Queenie comes across as a ditsy (which is eventually revealed to be far from the truth) tea girl. As their characters develop in the movie, you begin to appreciate their quirks. Their peculiarities do bring out a balance between their paired characters: Tina’s rigidity to following the rule of law vs. Newt’s willingness to break the rules to bring positive change, and Queenie’s flapper style beauty vs. Kowalski’s salt of the earth plainness. By the end of the movie, I was totally shipping Queenie and Kowalski, and at one point I was even imagining what their magical children would be like.
When news of the movie first made the rounds, there was talk about a four to five movie arc starting with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016). I was confused about how they could turn this story into more than just one movie. During the opening credits it dawned on me how they would do that. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016) is to be part of a series of movies about Gellert Grindewald, one of the most evil Dark Wizards of all time. So naturally, excitement has taken over me, now that I have realised that I have so much more to look forward to!
It goes without saying that I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, and felt myself squirm in my seat with excitement when hearing references to characters and events previously mentioned in the original Harry Potter books (many of which I will not mention, so as to avoid spoilers). The special effects were stunning, but don’t feel obliged to watch the movie in 3D. I think the 2D movie would be just as, if not more, enjoyable than the 3D version.
Unlike previous Harry Potter movies, this movie does not hold your hand and guide you through the world created by JK Rowling. In fact, it assumes you already know how the basic underpinnings of the Wizarding World works. Contrary to the previous eight Harry Potter movies, which were all adapted from the seven books written by the fabulous JK Rowling, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016) is a completely new work. As such, it has the ability to guide new and seasoned fans through Rowling’s Wizarding World, minus the lightning-scarred boy who lived. This could account for the reason why I loved the movie so much, there was no book to have built expectations from. It is an entirely new glimpse into the magical world of Harry Potter.
I can highly recommend that you go out and watch Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016), and if you have watched it you do not need me to tell you to watch it again. As a self-professed crazy-fan of Harry Potter, I have to give the movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016) a fantastic nine out of ten!
OK. I’m done. As you were.