Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: Movie & Screenplay Review

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4-star

Title: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Author: J. K. Rowling

Rating: 4/5 stars

Goodreads

Book Depository // Dymocks // Booktopia


The review below is spoiler free! Please avoid commenting with big plot spoilers!

If I was a Niffler, I would not covet jewels or freshly minted coins – I would be looting the JKR’s brain for more Harry Potter content. Like all my fellow Potterheads, I can’t help but want to revisit the wizarding world. Simply rereading the book is not enough, I always want more – even though I am aware they will rarely meet my immense expectations for the series.

Needless to say, I was still amongst the first in line to queue up to purchase tickets to Fantastic Beasts. This was in spite of my decidedly mixed feelings on Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I ended up adoring Fantastic Beasts in spite of its many flaws. I think being able to experience the movie, rather than relying on a script alone, went a long way in making me appreciate this story. Not to mention that Newt Scamander is the Hufflepuff hero we’ve all been waiting for, and he deserves all of our love.

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Personally, the highlight of this screenplay and movie for me is the character of Newt Scamander. He’s at once the quintessential Hufflepuff and a unique character all his own. Remember when JKR explained why all the Hufflepuffs stayed for the final Hogwarts Battle? It wasn’t because they wanted glory, or power, they stayed because that’s what Hufflepuff do – because being good needs no reward. That’s Newt, you feel it every time he interacts with one of his creatures or champion for another character. I also love the dichotomy of his mild social awkwardness, standing right alongside with his confidence and conviction in his passion for magical creatures. Eddie Redmayne totally owned this role, bringing Newt to life with his charismatic and multifaceted performance – I don’t think I would have ended up loving Newt quite as much without Eddie.

Speaking of the magical creatures, the visual effect are absolutely stunning in this film. Each fantastic beast that emerges from Newt’s case is beautifully realised, each with their own endearing set of characteristics. Whether it’s the bowtruckle with the attachment issue, or the Niffler with a penchant for shiny objects – they were an absolute delight to watch. The special effects also absolutely enthralled in action scenes or in any situation involving Newt’s suitcase. Yet, the movie never felt overburdened by the amount of special effects – and I don’t think I will ever get sick of seeing people Disapparating.

Although Fantastic Beasts introduces us to new characters and explores novel story lines, its story is inescapably linked to Harry Potter. We begin in the year 1926, just as Gellert Grindelwald’s making his wave of terror across Europe – threatening the international wizarding world’s Statue of Secrecy.  The tension building between the Muggle (sorry, I refuse to use the American term No-Maj!) population and the wizarding world, it creates an unease that permeates its way throughout the entire movie.  It also promises a tantalising larger plot to fill up the four sequels JKR has envisioned for the film series.

Fantastic Beasts also felt true to the Harry Potter series in its themes. Where Cursed Child faltered to find its voice in the messages about identity and the weight of ancestry – Fantastic Beasts shined in its narrative on tolerance. Muggles have been sidelined in previous iterations of the franchise, but the story line concerning the Second Salemers and the Shaws promises more to come. Not to mention that we finally see a Muggle in a central role through Jacob Kowalski, who I hope to see more of in the future – not least because of his perfect comedic timing.

While I loved it, Fantastic Beasts certainly had its fair share of issues. The movie attempted to blend a huge amount of genres: action, romance, comedy, drama, yet I never felt it quite pulled off these tonal shifts. There were several changes in mood throughout the film that seemed abrupt to me, making several key scenes fall short of their potential.

Out of the four main characters of this piece, I only felt Newt had any real semblance of development and characterisation. On the page, I adore the concept of both Tina and Queenie (especially Queenie, who is a queen, and I pray for someone to start writing fanfiction involving Snape being bested by her in Legilimens). I wished these awesome ladies were given more to work with characterisation wise, as they seem to fall into the role of compulsory love-interests at the moment. After witnessing 7 books and 8 movies of Hermione kicking ass and saving The Chosen One, it’s difficult to see the ladies out of the limelight.

For a series so concerned with messages of tolerance and inclusiveness, the writing continues to be incredibly tone deaf when it comes to representation of minority groups. This seemed especially jarring considering the backlash JKR received after the publication of her Magic in North America series. The only aspect of Native America we see in the film is the Thunderbird. There are some interactions between key characters in the screenplay that gives me hope we might finally witness a queer character in the wizarding world — but I won’t be holding my breath given the franchise’s awful track record with diversity.

However, this film was so satisfying to a soul starved of the wizarding world – and I will certainly be back for more. I am already busy decorating my bookshelves with merchandise and all the movie tie-ins I can get my hands on. If you enjoyed the movie, I feel that the screenplay is a must-have. It gives so much more insights into character motivations and feelings via JKR’s directions. Not to mention that the Minalima cover and interior art design is beautiful. I want the wizarding world to stay Art Deco forever.


Have you seen the movie? Are you as in love with Newt Scamander as I am? Would you be interested in seeing reviews of the numerous movie tie-ins I own? Please share your thoughts below, but be careful to mark your spoilers!

17 thoughts on “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: Movie & Screenplay Review

  1. I was so disappointed with the Cursed Child.I don’t know I was just expecting so much more from it. I’m glad that Fantastic Beasts met my expectations. When the Warner Brothers logo appears on the screen I got a little teary(which is ridiculous bc it’s just a logo but you know). I loved all the humour, I loved Newts little jokes and the way he was with his beasts. His character was amazing and I’m so glad. I think it was really interesting to see the Wizarding World from the adults perspectives as we’ve never seen this before. I loved how Queenie was able to use the fact that everyone thought she wasn’t smart to her advantage. I loved how bad ass all the women were. I loved Jacob and his wonder and adorableness. Honestly I want to watch it again so I can absorb the story and pick up on all the little things I missed the first time as I don’t have a copy of the script yet. Honestly it’s all I’ve talked about for the past two days. I loved the movie
    – Yasmin

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  2. Lovely review!
    You brought up many aspects that I liked from the screenplay, especially a muggle/No-Maj in a central role. Jacob and Newt’s friendship and mutual respect was one of my favourite directions that Rowling went with, along with Jacob’s ‘romance’ with Queenie. The subway scene was beautiful.
    Here’s my review of the screenplay if you are interested- https://goo.gl/tU3mWA

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I LOVED THIS MOVIE. I agree with everything you say, especially about how Eddie nailed the performance and how the movie try too hard with all different genre. I feel like the romance is unecessary, and I hope Tina and Queenie will have more roles in the next movies. Amazing review!

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  4. I know you mentioned it is definitely linked to the Harry Potter series, but I am behind on completely them. I was very interested in taking the kids t see this one though. Am I going to seriously ruing my experience with the books by doing so? I am always behind.. sigh.

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  5. Beautifully written review!

    I haven’t seen it yet, but I am DESPERATE to. I keep seeing mean things about it on Twitter, so reading a mostly positive review was nice. I think I’m probably going to like it. I have a certain degree of it’s HARRY POTTER SO I LOVE IT AUTOMATICALLY. When I first saw the trailer and heard that music again I got so emotional.

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  6. YOUR REVIEW WAS SO SPOT ON AN! I loved how detailed it was and everything you’ve said I 100% agree with! I’ve only read the screenplay and not yet had a chance to watch the movie but I LOVE IT! AND THE NIFFLER!

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  7. My review copy of the book is one its way! And at some point I will watch the movie, I’m sure. I seem to have lost my enthusiasm for all things Harry Potter, which sucks somewhat. But I’m so glad you found the book/movie satisfying, despite JK’s tone deafness.

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  8. Yes I really loved this movie, especially with Newt Scamander! I honestly think Eddie Redmayne pulled off the role so well, and I hope to see him in later movies. I also agree with everything you mentioned in your review, as I was really surprised that despite the backlash, JKR didn’t change much. Anyways, hope the next movie is great as well! 🙂

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  9. Ooooh fabulous review! I haven’t read the screenplay nor have I seen the movie, but I think I may go and see it now – your taste is always spot-on and I’ve loved all your recs!
    On Hufflepuffs, I think when I was younger I was a Hufflepuff and now that I’m older-ish, I’m a Ravenclaw? 😂 Deep down I still want to be a Hufflepuff but OH WELL. I look forward to seeing this!! I shall tweet you once I’ve seen it! :3

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