Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them

Confession time: I’ve never seen a Harry Potter movie, or read a book. Damn you Oscars for throwing this movie a nomination and forcing me to see it. And even though intellectually, I’ve known at various times that this was part of the HP universe, I’ve often confused it with with Doctor Strange, and with so many parallels between the two, it could fit just as easily in Marvel’s.

That dirty secret out of the way, spoiler alert: they’re in Eddie Redmayne’s suitcase. He plays writer and wizard-biologist of sorts, who finds himself in New York City with a suitcase full of trouble. NYC in the 1920s has a more closeted approach to wizardry than fantastic-beasts-redmayne-waterston.jpgwe’re used to, and the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA) is riding the barrier between magical and non-magical as well as they can. Scamander, however, believes that the beasts in his case are harmless and deserve a chance to be safe and free. This attitude puts him at odds with the MACUSA in general, and Graves (Colin Farrell) in particular. Luckily, a young woman a little lower on the chain, Tina (Katherine Waterson), takes him in, and a non-maj (non-magical person, or muggle) who’s been caught up in the whole thing as well (Jacob, Dan Fogler).

The magical community is on edge because of terrorism committed by the dark wizard Grindelwald. The non-magical community is getting riled up by fundamentalist “Second Salemers”, an anti-magic group to which Mary Lou (Samantha Morton) belongs, and spreads hatred for along with her adopted children (Ezra Miller among them).

As you can see, JK Rowling is drawing an awful lot of nifty parallels between our present maxresdefaultday world and theirs. There’s a whole subplot involving the evil things that happen when someone tries to suppress who they truly are.

Eddie Redmayne was the first and only choice for Scamander, which means you get to see an Oscar winner try to seduce a rhinoceros. Whatever you’re imagining, it’s worse. The movie is stand-alone (well, there are 4 sequels planned, but that’s another story) but still works best for those familiar with the Potter world of wizarding. Scamander was already technically a part of it, having written the text book that Harry will read some 70 years later at Hogwarts (of which Scamander is himself an alum). Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a lavish buffet, a visual feast, and it must be a delight for an HP fan to see so much more of the imagined universe come to life. For me, a novice, it was just all right, a serviceable story limited by its many plot lines that failed to cast a spell on me.

 

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24 thoughts on “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them

  1. fragglerocking

    I too have never seen or read the HP stuff, though have seen odd segments of the movies when ironing. I am reminded of J.R.R.Tolkein and G.R.R.Martin And Marvel in universal scope. Mayhap J.Rowlings belongs to that genre.

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    1. Jay Post author

      Well she seems to be excellent at universe-building. I saw a scrap of some HP movie when it was the 2nd movie at the drive-in, but as I recall, Sean and I were “watching” from the back seat.

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  2. Widdershins

    Seen the movies, own the books … and was a tad underwhelmed by FBAWTFT (when you say that out loud it sounds like the sound a grindylow makes when it’s in a hurry) I think the franchise will find its legs as the story expands. I hope so, because we can never have too much magic in our lives. 😀

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  3. Brittani

    I liked this, though not as much without the golden trio. I have no idea how they’re going to make 5 of these though. The most interesting character died. lol

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  4. Often Off Topic

    I’ve loved the Harry Potter series since I was a kid, and as wonderful as it was to return to the magical world, this movie was a bit ‘meh’ for me. I think it was knowing that it’s going to be dragged out into 5 movies that did it!

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    1. Jay Post author

      Yeah, that’s intimidating. I think it makes us less invested in the stories individually. Plus it starts to feel like a cash grab rather than story telling.

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  5. sportsattitudes

    I haven’t seen any of the HP stuff. (Don’t know how I achieved that to be honest but here we are) I was thinking maybe I enjoyed it more as a newbie to the whole “nobody beats the Wiz” universe. I didn’t know what to expect and thereby didn’t have the bar raised for it as a result. I do agree hearing ahead of time it was destined to be another franchise was a turn-off but as a first-go round in this world I thought it was entertaining enough. Definitely for “our times.”

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  6. Khalid Rafi

    Nice review. This struck me as something really bland and boring and everything felt far too dull and generic. The HP films are a league above this. And if you do eventually decide to catch up with them you won’t regret it.

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  7. StephLove

    I’ve read the HP series three times, but have only seen the first three movies. Currently, I’m the mean mom for not letting my 10 year old see Fantastic Beasts. She’s not allowed to see PG-13 movies yet.

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