Hey everyone! I am a huge Harry Potter fan, so I obviously needed to see the new Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them movie. This post will start spoiler free and there will be a note when spoilers will start.
This story, brought to us by J.K. Rowling, genius and creator of the Harry Potter series, takes place in 1926. Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), is a young British wizard who arrives to New York City with a suitcase full of magical creatures. He soon runs into Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), a no-maj (American’s version of muggle) trying to get a loan to start a bakery, Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) who works for the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA), and Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol), Tina’s sister who also works for MACUSA and is a strong Legilimens.
When Newt accidentally sets lose some magical creatures in NYC, he rushes to locate and rescue them before wizards who have not taken the time that Newt has to learn to understand these beasts who are commonly viewed as dangerous.
Spoiler Free Thoughts
In Harry’s time, Newt is known as the author of the text book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them that Harry and his schoolmates use to learn about magical creatures, which is how we know Newt as well.
The characters were absolutely amazing. Newt was adorable, quirky, and passionate. Sisters Tina and Queenie were polar opposites but clearly loved each other. Jacob the no-maj was in for the adventure of a lifetime as he gets to tag along with Newt and learn about a world he never imagined.
That’s all I can really say without causing too many spoilers. If you haven’t seen the film, I do recommend you do so. It really is such an eye-opener of the wizarding world beyond Hogwarts.
Full Thoughts: Spoilers Ahead!!!
To continue what I was saying above, this story takes place before Harry’s but it feels like you get to see the adult wizarding world. I feel incredibly lucky to have gone to school with Harry but get to enter life after school with Newt.
Throughout the story, the world feels familiar. It’s new, of course, because it is in America rather than Europe, and we see it through the eyes of an adult who is out in the world of no-majs and wizards rather than a child who spends most of his time at his wizarding school. But it is the same in terms of the same fears that Harry knows. There is a stigma against wizards from the no-maj perspective (those who believe in magic and the existence of wizards anyway), wizards who worry about their secret of magic getting out into the world, an evil wizard on the loose, and things that just go plain wrong. There are government officials with shady goals, laws forbidding the revelation of magic to no-majs, and so on.
I noticed a lot of parallels between Hagrid and Newt actually. Both of these characters dedicate their lives to the care and protection of magical creatures, no matter how dangerous they are, to various degrees of success and utter failure.
The creatures were amazing! They are extremely well done. The niffler was my favorite, but the Thunderbird was absolutely gorgeous. Newt’s bowtruckle was endearing, and the other creatures were captivating to say the least. Newt’s suitcase allows him to climb down and care for all the creatures he keeps and he regularly feeds, cares, and interacts with them.
There are also many differences between the world we already knew and Newt’s, and big ones at that. MACUSA has laws against wizards interacting with no-majs, going as far as to demand any no-maj who comes in contact with knowledge of the wizarding world is obliviated and wizards cannot marry a no-maj. Through Harry we know half-bloods exist and Hermione’s parents, as well as Lily’s and many others, were muggles who had magical children and were taught about the magical world when the children were ready to go to Hogwarts. This does cause many questions to come forth, such as modern day laws and what happens to the children of no-majs, but those are questions for another time.
Of course, this causes problems when Jacob learns about magic through Newt, Tina, and Queenie, and starts to form a real friendship with Newt and a romantic connection with Queenie.
Early on, different terms cause Newt some issues. He is confused when Tina uses the term “no-maj” as he is used to “muggle”. I found that odd as my first thought was “how did Newt reach adulthood without knowing that the Americans had a different term for muggle?” After all, I’m American but I know the British call the trunk of the car a “boot”, and elevator a “lift”, and so on. But then again, Newt wouldn’t have had the internet to learn these things. Still, wouldn’t he have consulted someone back home who had traveled to America? I understand this was likely done to help the audience but it seemed a little unbelievable at the time. I also thought it odd that muggle/no-maj would be different but squibs would be squibs, until my sister pointed out that it was still a European educated person using the term squib.
The acid room was also something different. Tina and Newt are sentenced to execution, and taken to a room with a chair and pool of acid. Their happy memories are removed and dropped to the acid so they willingly sit and head towards death. I read a review somewhere (I forgot where though) that pointed out that this might be included as a criticism of the death penalty, which is still allowed in various US states. The Ministry of Magic did not have a room in the Department of Mysteries, that we saw anyway, that was dedicated solely for the execution of wizards. However with this argument I do want to point out that the dementors do “kiss” wizards and suck out their soul, so really which is the worse alternative?
Given recent events, I was happy to see that the MACUSA President was a woman, and a woman of color at that. I would have liked President Seraphina Picquery (Carmen Ejogo) to have more screen time and a more active role. Most of the times we saw her she was too busy to pay attention to what the actual problem was and she made a lot of assumptions as well. Still, she was a good character who ultimately wanted to do what was best of the wizarding community.
One characterization I did not agree with was Gellert Grindelwald’s. The actor, who I will not name and does not deserve to be connected to the wizarding world, did not fit the character at all and it was the only part of the movie that was completely out of place. Percival Graves (Colin Farrell), by comparison was a character that I did enjoy watching his plans play out. This should have been another Helena Bonham Carter acting as Hermionie Granger acting as Bellatrix Lestrange. That part of the Harry Potter films was absolutely perfect, but the Graves-Grindelwald revelation did not do this at the same level. Grindelwald just didn’t seem like he would have been able to keep up acting as Graves, and it did feel as if the two had been completely separate rather than one masquerading as the other.
The New Salem Philanthropic Society fit in nicely to the story, even before the Obscurus is introduced to the story. Modesty and Credence are both very interesting and I had thought that Modesty was the Obscurus throughout the story, so when Credence was revealed to be the one with the hidden magic I was surprised. It seemed like an odd idea as so much of the story seemed concerned with proving Credence was NOT the Obscurus, because the Obscurus couldn’t be more than 10, Credence was a squib, and so forth.
Overall I thought I wouldn’t enjoy the movie. The play script hadn’t been the best so I was prepared for further disappointment. But luckily, it was great and I really enjoyed Newt and his adventures in New York. I’m excited to learn more about the Obsurus in future works of Rowling’s and to see more adorable magical creatures, particularly that niffler again.
Let me know your thoughts on the movie. And let me know what your favorite magical creature was from the film! Mine is still the niffler. He was just too cute!
Thanks for reading!