You know every now and again you watch a movie at the cinema, and it COMPLETELY BLOWS YOUR MIND?! Yeah, Fantastic Beasts is one of those special gems. So special, in fact, it’s taken me a whole week since watching to process writing this review, going over every element in my head that makes it extraordinary. I will warn you now – I will be including some spoilers in this review, simply because I want to discuss it in detail. If you haven’t seen the movie yet and don’t wish to know the plot twists and turns… stop reading, book a ticket, and come straight back so we can obsess together!
I just want to begin with how I feel about the Harry Potter franchise in general. As a 6 year old, Harry Potter became a huge part of my childhood. I watched all the movies multiple times a day, read all the books multiple times a week, collected all the action figures, meticulously studied anything magic-related in the local library, quoted the series on an every other second basis, dressed up as Harry for World Book Day, and I’ll even confess to perhaps making out my eyesight was slightly worse than it was just so I could have iconic specs like my hero (I was an odd child, I know. These days I can only dream of what 20:20 vision must feel like).
Reading that back, yes; I might’ve been a tad insane. But I know I was not alone with the hysteria. J K Rowling’s beloved tales of the boy wizard captured the hearts and minds of so many children and adults all over the world. Over the years, by the time the Harry Potter movies came to a final curtain with The Deathly Hallows, the franchise took a back seat in my life. I must admit, I haven’t seen or read Harry Potter & The Cursed Child, mostly because the story feels more like fan fiction than canonical to me, personally. When it was first announced that the wizarding world was to be extended with a new line of movies based on Harry’s school textbook, and honestly speaking? I wasn’t overly excited. So, what did make me go watch it, you ask?
Several reasons; Eddie Redmayne being one of the largest. Eddie is such a wonderful actor who is entirely devoted to bringing each and every one of his characters to life, yet remains one of the most humble people in the industry, and this shines through in his starring role as Newt Scamander, a somewhat socially-awkward, introverted yet caring, loveable author who works for the Ministry Of Magic and has travelled to New York to complete his upcoming books on magical beasts. The supporting cast – Tina (Katherine Waterston), Queenie (Alison Sudel), Jacob (Dan Fogler), Graves (Colin Farrell) certainly do not disappoint either, vividly inspiring the audience to believe in the magical yet dangerous world they occupy.
The story goes as follows; several of Newt’s creatures go missing all over New York after himself and “No-Maj” muggle Jacob Kowalski accidentally swap suitcases at the bank. Upon seeing the disruption, former Auror Tina Goldstein brings Newt in to the MACUSA (the US version of the MOM) for being an unregistered wizard in high hopes of getting her job back. Upon failing, they team up alongside Jacob and Tina’s mind-reading sister Queenie to gather up Newt’s creatures and get them back to safety. Meanwhile, Percival Graves is tracking down a lethal creature known as an Obscurus, and asks a young boy Credence to help him, and it is soon heavily implied that the Obscurus is in fact one of the children of the New Salem cult his fanatic adopted mother Mary Lou Barebone leads, a cult that aims to exploit and kill wizards and witches.
What follows is a whirlwind of a plot that fully pulls you in headfirst; there’s mystery, action, peril, and more often than occasionally, some absolutely brilliant laugh-out-loud humour. There’s also lots of throwaway minor plot plots, you could call Easter Eggs, for those true eagle-eyed Potterheads out there. Production-wise, the costumes, the sets, the score all come together in the most delightful way and each aspect is beautiful. But let’s talk about what this movie is really about – the creatures themselves! They run wild through the heart of the movie, and the way the actors are able to interact with them so fluently, you could be fooled into believing they’re real themselves, especially the Niffler, the adorable little thief who has a penchant for gold, and is the reason Newt got into the mess-up at the bank in the first place.
As with all previous HP stories, there is one common theme that runs through this movie – friendship. This story more than ever, as it pushes the boundaries of the wizarding world. Newt does not wipe Jacob’s memory as expected of the wizarding community to do after muggles witnessing magic. Instead, they become friends and Jacob is more grateful than anyone to be introduced into the hidden world of magic, helping Newt to find and care for his creatures in his suitcase. Tina has to choose between her head and heart when it comes to her former job, and although the pair never get together romantically (a point I must say was definitely tasteful with storytelling) Tina clearly cares for Newt, especially by the latter half of the movie, and Newt’s feelings appear to be mutual as he offers to return to New York to give her a copy of his book in person.
But let’s talk about the relationship everyone has come to love after watching; the love story of Jacob and Queenie. In America during the 20’s (when the movie is set) wizards were forbidden from having romantic relationships and marrying No-Maj’s. Based on appearance and background, they are polar opposites, but from the moment they met, there’s an instant spark between the two as they are instantly attracted and fascinated by one another. Tina warns Queenie not to get too attached, and Jacob realises sooner or later he will be forced to forget about her along with the rest of the wizarding world, and for most of the movie, you’ll be thinking “Will they, won’t they?!”. One of the saddest moments in the whole movie comes when Queenie finally kisses Jacob as he succumbs to the forgetting spell, a truly bittersweet moment. However, the cliffhanger makes up for it when Queenie visits Jacob’s new bakery where Jacob has unknowingly made all his pastries in the image of Newt’s beasts. When Jacob sees Queenie again, he appears to have a moment of clarity, and smiles. I honestly would go as far as saying that Queenie and Jacob’s story is one of the best romantic relationships portrayed on-screen in a very long time.
I’m so excited for the Fantastic Beasts sequel, it’s unreal! I cannot wait to watch more of Johnny Depp’s creepily intense Grindelwald after that amazing reveal, as well as see what future adventures will unravel between the ready established characters from this movie, and see even more intertwining links between this franchise and the original Harry Potter universe. If I’m completely honest, I enjoyed Fantastic Beasts so much, I’d go as far as saying it was actually better than some of the Harry Potter movies! So if you haven’t already, make sure Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them is firmly on your watch list this season for one of the most spellbinding movies of the year.