You’ll have to forgive me for this post. I originally started writing it when this movie first came out last year, but then we got caught up in the holidays, and so it ended up sitting on the shelf for awhile. Since the movie was recently released on Blu Ray, I figured I might as well finish it (and maybe start a new series of posts in the process).
My husband and I are big Harry Potter fans. We reread the books frequently and watch the movies whenever they’re on, and we made sure to visit Alnwick castle when we went on our honeymoon (which is where the first movies were filmed). We haven’t introduced the Boyo to them yet, but he’s two and all he wants to watch is YouTube. Maybe in another year or two.
Once we heard about Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them was being filmed, and that it was a new story set in the world of Harry Potter, we knew we had to go and see it. So as soon as we knew it was out and in theaters, we found a babysitter for Boyo, and then Husband and I went off to go and see it.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them is named after a school book that Hagrid makes his students buy for his class. The movie is about the author of that text book, Newt Scamander, and his adventures in America. He stops over in New York briefly and ends up bumping in to a No-Maj (the American name for Muggles) named Jacob. They have suitcases that get mixed up, and chaos ensues when Jacob accidentally lets some of the creatures loose. Meanwhile, there’s a subplot about Gellert Grindelwald, a notorious dark wizard, who is on the loose, and a group of anti witch protesters called the Second Salemers. While that seems like a lot of plot lines to juggle, everything comes together very neatly in the end.
It’s a beautiful film. The set pieces and costumes are stunning and period appropriate. The effects are amazing. And the actors do a really great job. Newt is adorkable. So is Tina. There are hints of a romance between them that is just starting to bud and it’s awkward and cute all at the same time. Queenie is someone you don’t want to be around if you have secrets. Her abilities as a legilimens were a bit different than how legilimency was originally described in the series, so that can be a bit distracting at times. Colin Farrell is just stunning as Percival Graves. And then there’s Jacob – he is the perfect everyday guy who gets caught up in a world he never had a clue existed. And he has an absolute blast with it, and finds out that he is way stronger than he ever expected.
I was a bit shocked by how intense and dark the movie felt compared to the Harry Potter films. While there is some comedy to lighten things up, this is definitely not a kids film. At all. Now, Harry Potter can be just as dark at times – but I think because the films and books take place over the course of Harry’s school year, and they are set entirely in the Wizarding world, with minimal interactions with Muggles, it doesn’t feel nearly as intense. With Fantastic Beasts, the action takes place over the course of a few days. Also the actions of the magical creatures that escaped, Grindelwald, and the Salemers all have direct effects on the muggle world. Plus, the way MACUSA disciplines their own is just flat out messed up. Dementors aren’t exactly nice either, but at least they don’t melt you.
It probably doesn’t help matters either, that this post WWI America. The USA was growing more and more Isolationist and Eugenics were in full swing. You can see the effect these policies have on the American Wizarding community, and on No-Maj’s. In fact, the environment is very similar to things that are going on right now, in the real world – only there weren’t as many people speaking up for what was right back then. I confess the similarities between then and now, real life and fiction, may be why I feel that Fantastic Beasts is so much darker than Harry Potter was.
Regardless of that, it’s a very good film. I cannot recommend it enough, and I cannot wait to watch it again now that it is on Blu-Ray and digital.