The Book and Movie Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Star Wars isn’t the only major fandom that decided to release a set of films for the second generation. J. K. Rowling has published several Hogwarts textbooks for the entertainment of muggles (Fantastic Beasts, Tales of Beedle the Bard, and Quidditch Through the Ages). She also wrote a script for yet another magical Harry Potter world movie: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a textbook on all the different types of animals there are in the Wizarding World that Hogwarts students use in classes (perhaps classes such as Care for Magical Creatures). It is also full of notetaking by Harry, Ron, and Hermione, which is hilarious sometimes and makes for interesting reading. Not that the information provided isn’t interesting. Looking at it from a writer’s standpoint, it’s actually very inspiring, particularly if you write fantasy or science fiction. The beasts that are talked about in the tiny textbook are indeed very fantastic and creative in a magically realistic way. So, as far as story goes, the book Fantastic Beasts doesn’t do much except for satisfying the imaginative mind and appealing to all the Harry Potter fans who yearn to learn more about the magical world from the beloved book series.

The movie, on the other hand, is very story oriented, so this post will be featuring the movie Fantastic Beasts more than the book. The movie is not exactly based on the book per se, but the creatures in the movie are mentioned in the book, and the author for Fantastic Beasts, Newt Scamander, is the main character in the movie.

First of all, I have to say it was easier to relax in watching Fantastic Beasts because it wasn’t 1) based on a book, 2) depending on the plot and era that Harry Potter took place in, and 3) it was a completely new avenue J. K. Rowling decided to take. When I saw Force Awakens, it was hard to relax and completely enjoy the movie for what it was because I had heard it was supposed to be like the oringal Star Wars trilogy. When I saw The Martian, I was glad with the way it turned out because it was decently accurate to the book it was based on. When I saw Fantastic Beasts, I saw it as a standalone movie, not based on a book or part of a movie series that depended on its success; sure, it had to do with magic like the sort in Harry Potter, but it was set in a different place and era with a completely different story that it was easy for me to watch without having to worry about its accuracy or likeness to other movies or books of its kind.

 

Set in the early 1900s, young Briton Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) travels to the U. S. to release his Thunderbird in its natural habitat, Arizona. But Newt gets pulled into a crisis in New York when the creatures he carries around in his briefcase get on the loose and cause chaos. One event leads to another and at the end, he’s trying to calm an Obscurus. More on the Obscurus later … Newt makes some friends with the witch Tina (Katherine Waterston) who first off takes him to the Woolworth Building, the Magical Congress of the United States of America. There she hopes to bring the problem of letting magical creatures roam the city unsupervised to the attention of the MACUSA president. An innocent No-Maj, Jacob, gets pulled into the scene by having his briefcase switched for Newt’s and wakes up in his apartment to find many of Newt’s creatures roaming around his home. Magical peeps in New York have done well in keeping their spells hidden from No-Majs until now.

On the side of this plot is another: Graves, who works for MACUSA under disguise (he is actually Grindelwald [Johnny Depp]) offers an adopted boy named Credence freedom from his abusive mother, Mary Lou. Mary Lou is the head of a No-Maj New Salem Philanthropic Society and believes that witches and wizards are dangerous. But Graves offers the freedom on one condition: that Credence will tell him who the host of the Obscurus is.

Now I get to tell you what an Obscurus is, which I find very fascinating, and is one of J. K. Rowling’s new magical features (I don’t remember the Obscurus from any of the earlier books or movies). As explained in the movie, when a magical child is forced to suppress their powers, an Obscurus is formed and attacks only when the said child is angry or under stress and can no longer control it. If the host doesn’t perform spells, the Obscurus basically eats at them and takes over their body, making the host an Obscurial. Uncontrolled Obscurials are exceedingly dangerous, and Graves wants to find the child who is the host of this particular one that has been rampaging the city and killing people right and left. And he believes it is one of the children who has been adopted by the magic hating No-Maj Mary Lou. Coincidence.

Newt gets pulled into the Obscurus situation when Jacob, the No-Maj he befriends, finds a small, black, smoky cloud in his briefcase (which has TARDIS-like powers; you enter the case and find a whole zoo of magical creatures inside, all under the care of Scamander). This cloud is an Obscurus that Newt had recently obtained from a magical girl who had been the host of it, but died.

Oh, there’s an Obscurus unleashed in New York? Let Newt take care of it; he’s dealt with those before. And it goes from there with (spoiler) happening, which causes this (spoiler) and in the end, all the (spoiler) and everyone lives happily ever (spoiler). The end.

There’s a lot more to the story that I enjoyed, but if you haven’t seen the movie yet, I want to leave some gaps for you to discover as you watch it for the first time. My overall impression of the plot was interesting and not too complicated. The quality of the film, from acting to camera to CGI was very impressive, and I enjoyed the 1920s sets and styles mashed with wands and magic … has that even been done before? However, in comparison to, let’s say, the first Harry Potter film, it just doesn’t match up. There’s something incredibly classic and nostalgic about the Harry Potter films that goes above and beyond Fantastic Beasts. It may be the storyline, the loveable characters, the original ideas, the environment of Hogwarts, the music, the British accents, or a combination of all these aspects that for me just is what there is to love about the Wizarding World. Fantastic Beasts, in my mind, is to Harry Potter as Force Awakens is to A New Hope. You have the same world, the same elements, the same type of magic, and it’s all part of the one big story, but there’s enough difference that doesn’t make it quite the same.

Thus, I dub the movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them with 7 stars out of 10. It was a very well done movie, with great casting, good acting, an interesting story, and clever script, and is one of those movies I wouldn’t mind seeing again soon after the first time around. Since this is going to become a series, I think it’s appropriate to say that I’m very pleased with the characters in the movie and I can easily see them as becoming classic wizarding icons as the story goes on … much like Harry, Ron, and Hermione. But grown ups.

Cue my new favorite gif.

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What do you say? What star rating would you give this movie? Are you going to pick up J. K. Rowling’s script on Fantastic Beasts? Also, what do you think of the idea of cosplaying Newt Scamander? The idea gets better each time I think of it. If you haven’t seen the movie yet and are somehow in no way interested in seeing it, I have to tell you this one thing: The niffler. Go see it for the niffler. It’s a pilfering little punk of a cute furball.

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