Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: A Review

Disclaimer: This review is meant for Witches and Wizards. Muggles (read: People who’ve been living under a rock for all these years and wondering what all the Harry Potter hype is about,) may experience issues understanding half the things stated below and feel lost. Spoilers follow for those in the know.

We all know that Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, is inspired by J. K. Rowling’s book of the same name published in 2001, but what many of us don’t know, is that the book has very little to do with the plot of the film. The book, an amazing example of literary mystification has been published under the name of the fictional author, one Mr. Newt Scamander – a British magi-zoologist.

The book is meant to be read as a special fifty-second edition of the recommended text-book for the first year students at Hogwarts, with even a foreword by Albus Dumbledore, in which he states “You hold in your hands a duplicate of Harry Potter’s own copy of Fantastic Beasts, complete with his and his friends’ informative notes in the margins”.

this-book-belongs-to-harry-potter

As for the movie, it traces Scamander’s visit to New York much before he actually wrote his book. To his luck, he happens to visit New York with a suitcase full of magical beasts at the same time as strange forces wreak havoc upon the city, the cause of which the ‘no-majs’ (the American term for ‘muggles’) have no clue of. And as a result of which the wizarding community of America fears the exposure of its existence to the no-majs.

Newt Scamander, played by Eddie Redmayne can be considered a more handsome, charming and introverted version of Hagrid, with Luna Lovegood’s innocence, awkwardness, and dreamy expression permanently plastered to his face. The way he names all his magical creatures and calls himself their ‘Mum’ strongly reminds us of Hagrid. And speaking of Luna, did you know that according to Pottermore, she is co-incidentally married to Scamander’s grandson? (Wait… Does this come under the category of a spoiler?)

Mr. Jacob Kowalski, played by Dan Fogler, is a no-maj who somehow gets stuck with Scamander and they together land in trouble. On the other hand, Porpentina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), a demoted auror working for MACUSA (Magical Congress of USA) happens to witness Scamander’s little mishap involving Kowalski which had led to the accidental escape of some of the beasts from his case. Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol), Tina’s sister-cum-roommate, a skilled Legilimens who grows particularly fond of Kowalski, charms her way into our hearts with her exuberance. The story of how these four find their way out of the ongoing chaos is what Fantastic Beasts is all about.

Do we get to see any of our beloved Harry Potter stars in this film? No, because this film takes place in 1926, fifty-four years before Harry was even born. (Yes, I did the math, and yes, I’m that jobless.) Although the occasional mention of Hogwarts, Dumbledore, Grindelwald, and the very famous ‘Merlin’s beard’ evokes in us a strong sense of nostalgia.

In total, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a perfectly brewed potion with a stellar cast, stunning 3D graphics, David Yates’ amazing direction, a surprising cameo appearance and just the right amount of humour, action and drama.

Rowling’s detailed writing and invention of terms like ‘billywigs’, ‘bowtruckles’ and ‘appaloosa puffskeins’, once again makes us want to believe in that crazy fan-made theory about how Rowling is an actual witch assigned by the Ministry of Magic to provide an insight of the wizarding world in a subtle way to us muggles.

Near the climax, when the background score you didn’t even realize you were listening to suddenly merges into ‘Hedwig’s Theme’, it just throws you off a cliff into a deep pit of nostalgia, assuring goosebumps.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them takes you through a rollercoaster ride which you wish would never end. It is totally worth it. Except of course, if you consider your urge to cast an Avada Kedavra on those silly muggles, who arrive late to the theater half-way through the film, and royally tread everyone’s foot on their way to their seats located half a mile away from you.

Or if you consider the infamous ‘curse-of-the-bespectacled’ in which people are blessed to go through the struggle of wearing the 3D glasses over their prescription glasses. Who would know about the burden of bespectaclement better than the boy-who-lived, who battled dragons, swam across waters, hunted for horcruxes, broke into Gringotts, and ultimately even defeated Lord Voldemort, all the while never bothering to remove his glasses.

P.S. Dear Muggles, who managed to make it to this point (if any), that funny feeling in the brain you are experiencing right now is caused by Wrackspurts, who in Luna Lovegood’s words “float in through the victims’ ears and make their brain go fuzzy”.

Sindhuri Sriraman

Sindhuri is an eccentric creature and the perfect definition of what is called an introvert. Although this Tamilian loves to call herself a Delhiite, she just can’t stand a remark against South Indians, and teaching geography to people who call all South Indians as "Madrasis" tops her list of hobbies. Her other favorite pastimes include painting, making complex origami models, and baking.

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  • Sumit Tripathi

    Feels like a fan review. The movie was beautiful looking and had good acting but had several problems:
    1. Lack of a story. The plot was weak.
    2. Lack of a strong villain. Despite the big reveal towards the end, the actual threat seemed weak and did not really inspire horror that one would want from a villain.
    3. Sluggish pace. Too much time was devoted on visuals and 3d effects than on pushing the pace.
    4. Movie was damn childish. Harry potter moving 3-7 had darker tones than this one. Felt like this was made for kids.
    5. Lack of wizards and witches doing magic. Would have been nice to see more spells as these guys were mature wizards and not kids.

    • Sindhuri Sriraman

      Hey Sumit, thanks for your opinion. You seem to be a great film critique. This review is completely based on what I felt watching the film. Being a proud Potterhead, I totally loved the film the way it was and thoroughly enjoyed writing this review too. I didn’t really feel the need to dissect and analyze its various aspects. 🙂

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