Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a 2016 fantasy film directed by David Yates and written by J.K. Rowling. It is the first installment in the Fantastic Beasts film series and the ninth overall in the Wizarding World franchise, being a spin-off and prequel to the Harry Potter film series, inspired by the 2001 book of the same name by Rowling. The film stars Eddie Redmanyne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Samantha Morton, Jon Voight, Ron Perlman, Colin Ferrell and Jude Law.
In 1926, British wizard and “magizoologist” Newton “Newt” Scamander lands in New York City. He notices Mary Lou Barebone, the non-magical (“No-Maj” or “Muggle”) head of the New Salem Philanthropic Society, preaching that witches and wizards are real and dangerous. Striving to retrieve a Niffler that escaped from his suitcase of magical creatures, Newt meets No-Maj Jacob Kowalski, an aspirant baker, and they unknowingly swap suitcases. Porpetina “Tina” Goldstein, a demoted Auror of the Magical Congress of the United States (MACUSA), arrests Newt for breaking magical law. Since the suitcase he has only has Jacob’s baked goods, Newt is released. At home, Jacob opens Newt’s suitcase, freeing several creatures into the city.
After Tina and Newt find Jacob and the suitcase, Tina takes them to her apartment and introduces them to Queenie, her Legillmens sister. Jacob and Queenie are both attracted to each other, though American wizards are forbidden to have any contact with No-Majs. Newt takes Jacob inside his suitcase, magically enlarged to keep various creatures.
After they retrieve two of the three escaped beasts, Tina returns the suitcase to the MACUSA, but they are arrested, as officials believe one of Newt’s creatures is responsible for killing Senator Henry Shaw Jr., who actually attacked by a different Obscurus. The Director of Magical Security, Percival Graves, accuses Newt of conspiring with the infamous dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald, and decides to to demolish Newt’s suicase and obliviate Jacob’s recent memories. Newt and Tina are sentenced to death. Queenie senses this, rescues Jacob before his memory is taken and, then helps Newt and Tina escape and retrieve Newt’s suitcase. Advice from Tina’s goblin informant Gnarlack leads the four to getting the last of the escaped creatures.
Graves comes to Credence, Mary Lou’s adult adopted son, and offers to free him from his abusive mother in exchange for helping find the Obscurus causing destruction to the city. Credence finds a wand under his adopted sister Modesty’s bed, which Mary Lou assumes is his; when Credence is about to be punished, the Obscurus kills Mary Lou and her oldest daughter Chasity.
Newt finds Credence hiding in a subway tunnel, but is attacked by Graves. Tina who had tried to protect Credence from Mary Lou, tried to calm him, while Graves tried to convince Credence to listen to him. As Credence returns to human form, MACUSA President Seraphina Picquery and the Aurors counterattack, killing the Obscurus. However, not seen by anyone but Newt, a single piece of the creature flees the scene. Graves admits he planned to unleash the Obscurus to expose the magical community to the No-Majs and to frame Newt for the incident.
This movie is filled with superb special effects, fantastic costumes, makeup and scenery, perfect music and outstanding acting. It has the feel of a Potter film, though it is a sequel or prequel to the HP series. Some of the characters like Newt, Jacob, Queenie and Dumbledore are very likeable and others, of course, or not. Jacob is the funny, naive, No-Maj, Queenie is the sweet Auror, Newt is the awkward creature lover with a big heart and Dumbledore is the Hogwarts headmaster who is always willing to help others. Other characters like the abusive mother Mary Lou Barebone and Gellert Grindelwald are evil are meant of course, to be unliked.
This film has drama, thrills, romance, fantasy and heart. It goes from dark to light throughout the movie, so you find yourself going from “aww…” to “Oh no!” Not once is the film predictable or boring. It is pretty intense for a PG-13 rating. The film not only has darkness but also funny little parts here and there that make it much more entertaining than if it were just all sinister.
Rowling knows how to capture light, dark, humor and heart in all her stories, making her the best fantasy writer since J.R.R. Tolkien. Her stories are so captivating, you don’t want them to end and you keep going back to them time after time.
This film is the perfect distraction from the negativities of today’s real world. It takes you on journeys to other worlds, scary ones, fun ones, but equally fascinating. The film may not be quite as good as any in the Harry Potter series, but it is still wildly entertaining and deserving every award it wins.
The main character Newt Scamander is an odd one. His mannerisms, or quirks, make him weird, unique, special and overall, lovable. Newt seems to have characteristics of high functioning autism or Asperger’s syndrome, though Rowling has yet to comment on that, Redmayne who plays Newt seems to think that Newt has Asperger’s, but being that the films take place in the 1920’s and 1930’s, there was no diagnosis, but the resemblance of the character to a person with ASD is pretty uncanny and it is nice to see characters that those kind of people can relate to.
Overall, a thrilling and heartwarming film that both fantasy and Potter fans will enjoy. It has every element of a great fantasy film. 13+ 4.5/5