It’s less than three weeks until the release of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, so I thought it was time to rewatch Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them another time and write a little something about it.
I’m going to assume that the vast majority of people have already seen this film, but still: spoilers ahead.
I think this was my fourth or fifth time watching Fantastic Beasts and it’s a film that never fails to fill me with joy and wonder. Returning to the Wizarding World is, and always will be, an amazing experience.
So, let’s get into the basic plot of the film first.
Newt Scamander, a Magizoologist, arrives in 1920s New York with a suitcase full of magical creatures. He crosses paths with No-Maj (= Muggle) Jacob Kowalski, former Auror for MACUSA (the American Ministry of Magic) Tina Goldstein, and Tina’s sister Queenie Goldstein.
While Newt tries to capture the creatures that have accidentally escaped from his suitcase, a dark force swoops through New York, leaving death and destruction in its wake, and the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald rises to power.
Percival Graves, Auror and Director of Magical Security for MACUSA tries to find out more about this dark force.
Meanwhile No-Maj Mary Lou Barebone, leader of the Second Salemers and mother of adopted children Credence, Modesty, and Chastity, tries to expose and eradicate witchcraft.
The protagonist in this film is Newt, a Magizoologist who radiates both awkwardness and kindheartedness. He nonchalantly tells Jacob that people don’t like him because he annoys them, knowing full well that he’s eccentric and he fully embraces that. How very Luna Lovegood of him. I suppose it’s no surprise that Luna actually ends up following in Newt’s footsteps by also becoming a Magizoologist and even marries Newt’s grandson Rolf.
Newt is a protagonist I really adore and support, and (please don’t hate me for saying this) might even be more fond of than I am of Harry.
Eddie Redmayne is responsible for making this character so loveable. By giving him a soft, slightly shaky voice and kind eyes, and by often bowing his head a little, looking up at people from under his lashes, he made Newt an obviously innocent, shy, kind and awkward character. I think Eddie did a wonderful job.
Graves is one of my favourite characters in this film and I love the way Colin Farrell portrays him. There’s an air of mystery and power around him from the moment he appears on screen.
At first glance he seems to be a good man who even shows genuine concern for Tina, but he becomes a little shady as soon as he gets involved with Credence, trying to get Credence to find a child with immense power he’s seen in a vision.
The more you see of him, the more shady he gets. He betrays himself for the first time when he asks Newt if an Obscurus is useless without the host and drops all pretence when time is running out and he’s on the verge of finding the Obscurial.
Credence breaks my heart. The poor boy can’t catch a break. He has to control the powerful magical force within him and in the meantime gets beaten by his mother and has words like ‘freak’ and ‘trash’ hurled at him by Senator Shaw. He longs for affection and just when he thinks he’s found a friend in Graves, Graves is cruel to him and turns out to have only been using and manipulating Credence. It seems like there’s no one who truly cares about him and whom he can trust, until he meets Newt and Tina, but even they can’t save him.
Even though this film has ‘fantastic beasts’ in the title, I haven’t even said anything about those wonderful magical creatures yet.
It’s hard to pick a favourite beast. Should I choose the naughty, cute little Niffler? Or perhaps Pickett, the Bowtruckle with attachment issues? Or maybe Dougal the adorable Demiguise? Or the majestic Thunderbird? Or the Occamy? Or the Swooping Evil? Or the adorably excited Mooncalves?
I don’t know. They’re all fantastic 😉 and I wish I was Jacob, invited into Newt’s suitcase and able to stare at all of those beautiful beasts in wonder. I will admit that I have a soft spot for those mischievous Nifflers and that sweetheart Dougal though.
As for the parallels between Newt’s time and Harry’s time-
I quite like how Grindelwald seems to have the same flaws as Voldemort. They’re both arrogant and narrow-minded, causing them to underestimate others. For example, Voldemort didn’t believe in the power of love and friendship and he underestimated the magical abilities of house elves. Both things cost him dearly in the end. Grindelwald doesn’t know of a case involving an Obscurial older than ten, so he immediately assumes the child in his vision must be ten years old or younger. Meanwhile Credence is standing before him, but he simply doesn’t see it. He even mocks Credence saying that he’s a Squib and that he could smell it off of him the moment he met him. Only when the magical power bursts out of Credence right in front of him, does he realise, but then it’s too late. He’s hurt Credence and betrayed his trust. He wanted so desperately to find and win over the Obscurial so he could use its power, but his arrogance caused him to blow his chance.
There’s also the similarity between Newt and Hagrid. Both lovers of magical creatures and both expelled from Hogwarts due to an incident involving a beast.
Then there’s a vague resemblance between the Golden Trio and Newt, Jacob, and Tina. Jacob resembles Ron, both comical sidekicks. Tina resembles Hermione, a little uptight and with a fierce need to abide by the law. Newt resembles Harry, the pure-hearted protagonist whom Dumbledore is fond of and who doesn’t really go looking for trouble, but trouble finds him.
I also wonder if the Newt/Leta story will end up being similar to the Snape/Lily story. It seems that it could be, given the fact that like Snape and Lily, Newt and Leta were apparently very close at Hogwarts, but something happened that caused a rift between them, and, from what I’ve heard, it has to do with unreciprocated feelings.
Even if there had been barely a plot and no character development in this film, I think I would’ve enjoyed it. I’d be perfectly content just going into the Wizarding World for two hours and seeing the inside of MACUSA, meeting all kinds of new magical creatures, and discovering what 1920s New York was like in this magical universe.
But Fantastic Beasts exceeded my expectations with its stunning special effects, sense of humour, wonderful characters, and dark storyline. I also think that Colin Farrell, Eddie Redmayne, the costume department, and the special effects department deserve a lot of recognition for their work.
I look forward to reuniting with most of these characters in Crimes of Grindelwald and I hope to discover what on earth Grindelwald meant with “will we die just a little?”.
And please, Newt, put some better locks on that suitcase of yours.
4.5 out of 5 stars.