Film Review – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the latest film in the Harry Potter universe, and the beginning of a five film franchise in its own right. This segment of the franchise is going to star Eddie Redmayne.

What is Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them about?:

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them begins as Gellert Grindelwald’s (Johnny Depp, in a brief cameo) reign of terror is on the rise, but the man himself seems to have disappeared from the public eye. Meanwhile, Newt Scamander (Redmayne) has just arrived in New York City with a hidden purpose and a magical suitcase filled with forbidden fantastic beasts. In a disastrous but predictable turn of events, several of said magical creatures escape during the film. Since bad things always come in threes, New York City has also been recently suffering from mysterious magical attacks and from a movement promoting the hunting of witches called “New Salem,” promoted by an adoptive mother (Samantha Morton) and her unhappily adopted kids (the most notable of which is compellingly played by Ezra Miller).

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find ThemThoughts on the film:

The problem with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is that Rowling wants to focus on what are essentially two separate storylines. On the one hand, Newt Scamander shows his new friends all his cool animal friends and explains how people who think they’re super dangerous are totally wrong, while having his argument undercut by his animal friends escape and cause wacky hijinks. On the other, the Wizarding World is terrified of being revealed to the No-Maj/Muggle population, and certain actors in the film are working on turning fear of the No-Maj world into a desire to act against it and have wizarding rule the world. The former of these two storylines seems to be the more successful of the two, engaging the audience with laughs and stunning visual effects. This is because the Nazi/racism parallels that Rowling seems to try to set up are severely undercut by the glut of white actors in the film. For example, when discussing the restriction that the American Wizarding World, Newt notes that American wizards aren’t allowed to marry No-Majs. This seems like a reference to the anti-miscegenation laws (which is more of a topic in another fall film), which is a parallel that would hit harder if the only No-Maj we saw wasn’t white. 

In addition, the female leads of the film (Katherine Waterston as Tina and Alison Sudol as Queenie) felt relegated to stereotypical roles and left out of action scenes. It seemed that Tina’s primary job in the film was trying to keep Newt in line, and that Queenie’s primary job was being “good cop” and flirting with No-Maj Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler). It was really disappointing to see that from Rowling after the role models of Hermione Granger and Ginny Weasley.

One last note: although the Harry Potter films could be watched by children, you need to be careful before you take your kid to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The darker of the two storylines gets intense at times, especially at the point around midway through the film where Newt, Tina, and Jacob are nearly literally sucked into it. The being behind the disturbances in New York City may also terrify your child. Read up before you go (maybe even visit your local bookstore and get your hands on the screenplay). The PG-13 rating is not a joke.

You can see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in a theater near you today.

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About the author

Siobhan Dempsey

Siobhan needs books to function, and therefore can infodump quite a lot about them, particularly when they're either science fiction or fantasy.

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