April 18, 2017 by phicks2012
With the Harry Potter series I read and collected all of the books, and knew before seeing the movies who the main characters were and generally what was going to happen — even though some characters were changed or left out of the films. However, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was released in printed form only as a “Screen Play”, and I simply don’t enjoy reading screen plays, so I didn’t buy the book. That’s why I had no clue what to expect, other than what I’d seen in the theatrical trailers.
This movie (likely the start of a new series) takes place probably 3-generations prior to the Potter series, and is set in the 1920s in New York rather than in England in the 1980s & 90s.
The main character is Newt Scamander, mentioned in the Potter series as the author of their textbook on the Care of Magical Creatures, and is played by Eddie Redmane — which should tell you right off the bat that the leads this time around are adults rather than children. Scamander is capturing and studying magical creatures which are in danger of extinction because they are seen as dangerous and are being killed off. He keeps them in small habitats inside a multi-dimensional suitcase, and due to a mistake some these creatures get loose in New York when he comes to the US to release a Thunderbird back into it’s natural habitat.
His main focus after the escape is to recapture the creatures before they cause damage or mayhem and are killed, and he winds up getting help from the Golstein Sisters (Porpentina and Queenie) both of whom work for MACUSA (the Magical Congress of the USA — the American version of the Ministry of Magic) and Jacob Kowalski, (a Nomaj – the American equivalent of a Muggle) who just gets caught up in the situation.
Also featured in the film is the character of Gellert Grindelwald (he’s mentioned too in the Potter series), and Newt carries a picture of Leta Lestrange (whose surname ought to be familiar to any Potterphile), so obviously things do tie together. They also introduced several subplots — like the New Salemers, descendents of Salem witches who have aggressively bred magic out of their lines (mostly) and who actively persecute witches and wizards.
As with the Potter films, there weren’t a lot of well-known actors cast, though in addition to Eddie Redmane there was Colin Ferrell, John Voight, Ron Perlman (who plays a goblin), and Johnny Depp (who showed up very briefly).
I enjoyed it very much. It was well-acted, and the special effects for the creatures were really amazing. It didn’t entirely blow me away on the first viewing though, and I’m still trying to figure out why.
The sets were fantastic, and the costuming really impressive. The creatures were, as I said before, extremely well-done, but aside from the main characters (Newt, Tina, Queenie, Jacob and Mr. Graves), there weren’t many others who were all that memorable. Modesty Barebone was nasty, and Seraphina Picquery was regal, and Credence Barebone was tragic, but I’m hard-pressed to remember any other character names, and the color palate of the film seemed – often “dingy”. That last was probably deliberate to set a particular mood, but still…
Maybe the sequel will blow me away. Fingers crossed. Sometimes it takes a while to get new characters to develop and mesh as they are meant to do.