Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)

A bowtruckle! Oh my gosh, he’s so cute!

(straightens lapels) Excuse me. I got a little excited there. I’d never seen a bowtruckle before—that should tell you how the rest of this review will go.

For those of you who live under a rock, J.K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is releasing this weekend, based off a textbook from the fictional (totally real) Harry Potter Wizarding World. It follows Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything), a magizoologist delivering a creature to the United States. I don’t want to give too much away, since it’s that kind of film, but let’s just say that multiple creatures get out, and he has quite the adventure catching them.

Assisting Scamander is Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), a Muggle No-Maj with whom he accidentally swaps briefcases. Tina (Katherine Waterston) stumbles upon Scamander, and before long the three of them are at her apartment with her sister, Queenie (Alison Sudol). Oh, and there’s a violent, invisible force that’s terrorizing New York City, threatening to do much more than expose the secret wizarding community… I really want to say more, but the details and surprises are truly magical here.

I said this is J.K. Rowling’s story, and that’s because she wrote the screenplay. [Full disclosure: I practically worship that woman.] Even the slightest details of this intricate plot are delectable feasts of imagination, from the creatures themselves to the habits of the individual witches and wizards to the American wizarding society. Yes, the film was directed magnificently by David Yates (the final four Potter films), but there is no doubt that the filmmakers found harmony in bringing Rowling’s vision to life.

Now, about the themes. Queen Jo J.K. Rowling has been known to insert some rather challenging ideas into her works, ranging from slavery to stigmas to dangerous politics, and a major theme of Fantastic Beasts is abuse. If you show your child hatred, forcing them to live a certain way or repress themselves entirely, you’re only going to foster resentment, which may lead to horrible suffering. There is also a tender message of caring, since Scamander is so in love with all creatures, but I think we’ll see more of that in later installments.

There will be four more of those, by the way, if we keep paying to see them (I really think we should). Honestly, I was a little nervous going into this film, but I had no reason to be. Eddie Redmayne is perfect as Newt Scamander, and Katherine Waterston has won me over completely, something I swore she’d never do after Steve Jobs. It’s not a perfect film, running a bit excessive with its plot, but there is so much literal and narrative magic to this film, I’m already planning to see it again.

3.5 Green

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is in theaters now.

Spoilers follow in white ink (Update: so long as you’re using a desktop browser, apparently).

Okay, so if you’re reading this, you’ve already seen it, or you don’t care, in which case you shouldn’t be wasting your time here. You know why I talked about children, and I felt so bad for Ezra Miller’s Credence. He was just the type of sad, neglected child who goes over to the Dark Side or joins ISIS. And then—with that Johnny Depp reveal—I had no idea they were going to bring him into this one! His casting announcement was all a trick, making us think he was showing up in the second one! UGH, Jo, why must you surprise me like that?!

I really thought they would have more plot regarding the Shaw campaign, but I’m guessing that’s going to be for the sequels too. With Jon Voight in it, I was expecting a right-wing conspiracy plot, but then poor Credence had to get vengeance. I truly have so many feelings about this movie. And can we talk about freaking scary it was to have all those children being indoctrinated with hateful messages? We can take some comfort in knowing for whom Rowling would have voted in the election. If you’d like to discuss your thoughts with me, post a comment or send me a message!

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