Hello world 🙂
I’m back with a rather overdue post
I planned to write a review of Fantastic Beasts after I saw it in November (twice), but I had a lot happening around that time so am only just getting round to it now. Still, better late than never, right? And if you’re worried I won’t remember it, my flatmates got me the screenplay for Christmas, so I should be fine 😉 .
Quick note before I start, I don’t really believe in spoiler-free reviews, so if you’re worried about spoilers and haven’t seen the film yet (how?) read on at your own peril 😉 . Also I won’t be recapping the whole plot in detail, I’m just going to assume you already know it 😉 .
Having waited so long for this film, my excitement at finally seeing it was very high and in my opinion it didn’t disappoint. Opening with a few bars of the very familiar Harry Potter theme as the Warner Bros. logo came up before merging seamlessly into the theme for Fantastic Beasts was the perfect blend of old and new to heighten both nostalgia for the old and excitement for what was to come.
After a montage of newspaper headings, mostly about the dark wizard Grindelwald, and how his attacks are threatening the wizarding community’s exposure, the scene shifts to Newt Scamander on a boat coming in to New York with his case full of magical creatures. After a mix-up at the bank Newt ends up with the wrong case, his own one now in the hands of the muggle (or no-maj as they’re known in the US) Jacob, who, unfortunately, opens it (but what else would you do if your suitcase started moving?). This leads to the chasing down and recapturing of the magical creatures the trailers promised us. Alongside this there is also the storyline of the Obscurus and Obscurial, a magic child who has suppressed his or her magic which then turns inwards and becomes an uncontrollable mass of magic, exploding out of the child at moments of strong emotional pressure.
As we learn throughout the film the Obscurus has killed a Muggle (sorry, No-Maj) politician, but the head auror of MACUSA (Magical Congress of the United States of America), one Percival Graves, blames it on Newt’s escaped creatures. This will eventually lead to a climactic chase scene through New York, with our heroes and all of MACUSA trying to detain the Obscurus’ destructive path through the city.
For me, the film really delivered what it had promised: it was fun, it was exciting, the acting was great and the story developed organically. J.K. Rowling has created four well-rounded, interesting characters, and watching them get to know each other and become a team is highly enjoyable. The score is amazing (check it out on YouTube 😉 ) and wonderfully underlines and supports the movie in all the right moments. The one thing I would say was not very good was the ex-machina nature of the ending: with the Obscurus devastating New York, most of the non-magical community has now seen witches and wizards, not to mention a massive cloud of uncontrolled magical power, and therefore a city-wide obliviation is needed. Newt handily has the venom of the Swooping Evil (which we briefly saw in his shed in the case) and with the help of Frank the Thunderbird the venom is diffused through rain. This feels very much like a quick and easy solution that doesn’t really stand up to closer inspection, as Newt says himself he doesn’t know how diluted the venom should be to work this way. I’m willing to forgive this however, as it served to bring us the heart-breaking moment where Jacob willingly walks into the obliviating rain and forgets the whole adventure. Luckily we see that not everything is gone as his bakery is full of magical-creature-shaped pastries, and a Queenie-Jacob plotline is definitely set up in that scene 🙂 .
All in all I have to say Fantastic Beasts is, so far, my favourite film in the Harry Potter franchise. There, I said it. It was very well made, the cast was amazing and it did a great job at setting up the plot for sequels while remaining a good standalone story. It’s a fun, family friendly film, but true to the franchise there are darker themes explored or left to be explored in later films.
It was also very interesting to see what Ariana Dumbledore must probably have been like; the description of Ariana by Aberforth Dumbledore in the Deathly Hallows and Newt and Tina’s explanation of an Obscurial are suspiciously similar:
She wouldn’t use magic, but she couldn’t get rid of it: it turned inwards and drove her mad, it exploded out of her when she couldn’t control it, and at times she was strange and dangerous. But mostly she was sweet and scared and harmless. (Aberforth Dumbledore, in Deathly Hallows, The Missing Mirror)
Before wizards went underground, when we were still being hunted by Muggles, young wizards and witches sometimes tried to suppress their magic to avoid persecution. Instead of learning to harness or to control their powers, they developed what was called an Obscurus […] It’s an unstable, uncontrollable dark force that bursts out and – and attacks … and then vanishes … (Newt and Tina, in Fantastic Beasts, scene 61).
Ariana’s being an Obscurial hasn’t been confirmed by J.K. Rowling (yet), but it makes a lot of sense. In my opinion the reason why Ariana’s Obscurus doesn’t seem to have been as destructive as Credence’s is because she was surrounded by people who loved her and tried their best to help her. It would also make sense from a plot point of view as Grindelwald is looking for an Obscurial to harness the power and could have found out that Obscurials still exist from seeing Ariana.
As far as where the series is headed, I expect the five-part story arc to culminate in the famous duel between Dumbledore and Grindelwald, even though it takes place almost twenty years later than the events of Fantastic Beasts, as that event is referenced many times in the books and it also makes sense for the story to end with a duel described as the most terrifying thing ever seen. However I’m sure the four heroes of this first film will reappear, as Tina and Newt have their budding romance to look after, and I’d be very disappointed if Queenie and Jacob didn’t have a Romeo-and-Juliet-style illegal relationship. From what I’ve gathered from the internet, in spite of his apparent death this isn’t the last we’ll see of Credence either. If I had to guess what’s going to happen next I’d say the second movie will fast forward a few months (or years?) and that Grindelwald will escape from custody and go out looking for Credence again, who might have teamed up with Newt.
So there you have it, my thoughts on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, hope you enjoyed this post, I’m going to do my best not to leave stuff this late in future 😉