Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

One of the best elements of the movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them is how very suitable it is for the current state of political affairs in the real world; fear born out of misunderstanding, division between no-mags (Muggles) and wizards, persecution, and hate. As we know from the Harry Potter books, Gellert Grindelwald is known for his desire to end the International Statute of Secrecy and establishing a world government in which Muggles are ruled, “benevolently” by wizards and witches. We also know that Albus Dumbledore established a friendship with Grindelwald because he shared the desire to end the Statute of Secrecy so what happened to his sister Ariana, being attacked by Muggle boys at the age of six who saw her using magic, would never happen again. Dumbledore was also interested in the Deathly Hallows because he hoped the Resurrection Stone would being back his deceased loved ones, including his mother who was killed in an explosion caused by Ariana’s uncontrollable magic. Here we get the first link between the books and the film: Ariana might have been an obscurial, thus explaining Grindelwald’s knowledge of them and interest in obtaining one.

Setting aside theories (I have another blog post where I write more about them), overall the movie was AMAZING! The effects were beyond par; the best I have seen in any movie since Lord of the Rings and I think even better. The magical creatures shown were all very realistic and believable; I honestly feel like if I look up at the skies of Arizona I might spot a Thunderbird. The amount of detail each creature had was mind-blowing. Additionally, the casting of spells and the use of magic throughout the film appeared natural and real; at no moment did my brain go “Oh, CGI.”

Newt Scamander may just prove to be a better protagonist than Harry Potter, and I know a lot of people will be up in arms at this, but in truth I always felt Harry was a bit one-dimensional. At the best of times Harry was immature and stubborn, rushing headlong into battle with only the sketch of a plan; he would never have made it to book seven without Hermione. Besides, he made mistakes but there was never any point where he made you feel uncomfortable or question what was good or bad. Newt, on the other hand, appears to be more complicated. In him we get the sense of being marginalized and picked on that we know Severus Snape suffered in school, at the same time he is clearly gifted and well-trained in the use of magic. Again, Harry is a good wizard, but nothing like Hermione. Newt, from the opening scene, seems to instinctively cast spells with incredible skill. Of course, this may be due to the fact that he is older than we ever see Harry, so he has had more practice in the use of magic. Additionally, Newt states that he fought in World War I (on the Eastern Front with dragons) which would have required his either already being greatly gifted or developing his powers in order to survive the war. Newt is also appealing because despite all he has scene, he seems naive and trusting, as well as yearning for acceptance and friendship. He comes across both as a tremendously talented wizard and an earnest and good heart. Yet, he was best friends with Leta Lestrange and, as Queenie says, that family is kind of…you know… There is something dark in Newt’s past; he was expelled from Hogwarts, he seems to have been in love with a Lestrange, and he also recognizes the mottos of “Grindelwald fanatics” when Graves implies Newt is one in the interrogation scene. All of this combines to make Newt definitely a good guy, but a more complex and nuanced protagonist than Harry.

Gellert Grindelwald is the darkest wizard to have ever lived; darker even than Voldermort. From the opening scene we can see that the stakes are high: he easily defeats about four or more aurors with a single spell. We know he terrorizes the wizarding world for decades before Dumbledore is able to defeat him in a duel that lasts hours. Unlike Voldermort, Grindelwald is presented as physically attractive and charming. His motto is “For the Greater Good” and, presumably, is obscurial were actually still common in the 1920s, unlike Tina believes, and muggles persecuted wizards and witches, then his argument would come across as sound. Who does the Statute of Secrecy really protect? As the first film of what is to be five, there are a lot of new elements that are initially introduced that we can only hope will be further developed in the next four films.

Yet, there are a variety of light and humorous moments in the movie that I absolutely adored and really appreciated because it made much more like reading the original Harry Potter books. Something I missed in some of the Harry Potter films was the amount of light-hearted humor that Rowling includes in her texts. Magic is wonderful, marvelous, funny, and entrancing. The magical creatures, such as the niffler, are both fascinating and hilarious. In the face of all of humanity’s evil, all they care about is getting their hands on anything pretty and shiny. These creatures are also loving, caring, and deeply attached to Newt and the attention spent on communicating this to the audience is appreciated. The scenes of Newt interacting with magical creatures emphasize the importance of these creatures as part of the magical world.

Overall, this movie as amazing and I recommend it to anyone who loves the wizarding world.

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