“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” is Fan-tastic: Our Spoiler-Filled Review!
I have seen Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them three times already, and I can unequivocally say that it is one of the most enjoyable moviegoing experiences I have had in many, many years. How can I say that after the gift of eight Harry Potter movies, based off the books I love and adore so much? Please allow me to explain.
As the title clearly states, this review has MAJOR SPOILERS. Do not read ahead if you don’t want to know!
Over the years, waiting for the Potter novels to be released, we were lucky enough to get adaptations of each story in the form of a film. As we all know, some of those films did a much better job at adapting (Deathly Hallows – Part 1) than others did (Prisoner of Azkaban). The frustration we each had as we walked out the theater, angry that our favorite line was given to Hermione instead of Ron (or vice versa), that the house-elves were never liberated by SPEW, or that Horcruxes were simply NEVER EXPLAINED, is a frustration that we all shared, and until this day have a hard time letting go of. Fantastic Beasts doesn’t have this issue, in any way, shape, or form – purely because it is all original material. I went into the film with no expectations of what I was going to see, and therefore, I wasn’t let down. I walked out of the theater, each time, with a feeling of pure and utter joy – plus 1,000,000 questions.
You’ve all seen the trailers and read the interviews with the cast and crew. You have some idea of what is to come, but oh – my – gosh, you truly have no idea. Refresh your memory with the official synopsis of the film:
There are growing dangers in the wizarding world of 1926 New York. Something mysterious is leaving a path of destruction in the streets, threatening to expose the wizarding community to the No-Majs (American for [‘]Muggles[‘]), including the Second Salemers, a fanatical faction bent on eradicating them. And the powerful, [D]ark wizard Gellert Grindelwald, after wreaking havoc in Europe, has slipped away…and is now nowhere to be found.
Unaware of the rising tensions, Newt Scamander arrives in the city nearing the end of a global excursion to research and rescue magical creatures, some of which are safeguarded in the magical hidden dimensions of his deceptively nondescript leather case. But potential disaster strikes when unsuspecting No-Maj Jacob Kowalski inadvertently lets some of Newt’s beasts loose in a city already on edge—a serious breach of the Statute of Secrecy that former Auror Tina Goldstein jumps on, seeing her chance to regain her post as an investigator. However, things take an ominous turn when Percival Graves, the enigmatic Director of Magical Security at MACUSA (Magical Congress of the United States of America), casts his suspicions on both Newt…and Tina.
Now allied, Newt and Tina, together with Tina’s sister, Queenie, and their new No-Maj friend, Jacob, form a band of unlikely heroes, who must recover Newt’s missing beasts before they come to harm. But the stakes are higher than these four outsiders—now branded fugitives—ever imagined, as their mission puts them on a collision course with dark forces that could push the wizarding and No-Maj worlds to the brink of war.
What this synopsis doesn’t tell you is that Fantastic Beasts jumps right into the Grindelwald storyline from the very first frame of the film. The opening sequence is filled with newspapers from around the world, each with a headline that warns of the danger Grindelwald is imposing on witches and wizards everywhere. If you’re up on your Potter history, then you will know that the film takes place 27 years after the death of Ariana Dumbledore, who died on August 18, 1899, once Gellert had fled to build his army “For the Greater Good.” This slaps you in the face, and if you’re paying attention, there are a LOT of clues as to the big reveal at the end of the film.
Newt and his beasts end up in the hands of the new Ron, No-Maj Jacob Kowalski. He is an adorably loving character who says exactly the right hilarious thing at exactly the right time. With a very classic accidental switch of the suitcase, Jacob ends up with a case of magical creatures, and Newt, a case of pastries. Both sound pretty amazing if you ask me. The case, which has a “faulty” lock, opens while Jacob is in his apartment, and a plethora of the creatures escape. The hunt that takes place to track them down gives us some of the best action sequences of the film, as well as some of the most gleeful.
While trying to catch an Erumpent (of which you may remember from the Lovegood home in Deathly Hallows), Newt performs a mating dance for the creature, only after rubbing on Erumpent musk because it “drives her wild.” He flails about a paddock within the snowy, broken-down Central Park Zoo, only to be thwarted by a seal. Yup, a seal. It is a truly wonderful scene that will sure to be the stuff memes are made of for many, many years.
The “new quartet,” as they are being coined, is a feat of magnificent casting. The four actors, Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander, Katherine Waterston as Tina Goldstein, Alison Sudol as Queenie Goldstein, and Dan Fogler as Jacob Kowalski, make up a group of characters that one can truly love just as much as the trio. Their struggles are our struggles, their victories our own. I am more excited than ever to see how Newt and Tina end up married, and where their journey takes the two of them. The closing scene where Newt gets back on the boat to head back to the UK and finish his book is heartbreaking, yet hopeful. Tina knows that she will see Newt again very soon, and like any independent, pants-wearing woman of the 1920s, she is okay with waiting. She has her own life to lead!
The love story of Queenie and Jacob, I predict, is going to go down in the history books as one of the great loves within the fandom. Queenie is by far my favorite character of the film and speaks to the modern woman of today. Yes, she is beautiful, but she is also capable, smart, clever, and incredibly quick-witted, and she stands by her sister and friends like no one ever has before. She most certainly would be part of Pantsuit Nation, and she would wear them proudly – AND look like a million bucks.
Remember how I mentioned that Grindelwald is everywhere in this film? This especially holds true of our “darker” characters, from the Second Salemers Credence, Modesty, and Mary Lou Barebone, to Percival Graves, whose influence is ever-present.
Credence is really the central character of the darker arc of the film, which is surprising given all the secrecy around his casting and how prevalent Modesty was painted as a character. Credence is a wizard, and a very, very powerful one at that. He has been suppressing his magic for the entirety of his life and as a result, created an essence, of a force of nature, called an obscurus. The obscurus that lives inside of him, that is a major part of him, wreaks havoc at his will. He can control it, but by the end of the film, he chooses not to and ends up going on a frustrated killing spree. He ends up being murdered by MACUSA in a spectacular way that will remind us of another death in the Potter films. I don’t think that this is the last we are going to see of Credence, however. Ezra Miller’s performance is truly spectacular, and what a waste it would be to cast someone that amazing for only one film and not bring him back. Plus, if you pay attention, I am pretty sure Newt sees something that no one else sees… watch closely. Let me know if you catch it.
Last – but absolutely certainly not least – Mr. Percival Graves. I’ve been debating this entire time if I should go ahead and spoil this character for you. As we have all deduced from the posters, he wears Grindelwald’s mark and is most definitely an evil bastard. His character is one of the central characters – if not the center – of the series moving forward, and just in case you don’t want to know the absolute biggest spoiler of the entire film…
We have a million plus one questions after watching this film, and we are sure that you will, too, but for now, simply go watch and revel in the pure joy that is a film without expectations. Stay tuned to this space since we have a mountain of articles to release in the coming days, analyzing every single little bit of this film and what is surely to come.
If you haven’t already downloaded and listened to our Fantastic Beasts podcast, SpeakBeasty, don’t hesitate. They have all the scoop and more, including interviews with talent from the films!