J.K Rowling’s first foray into the world of screenwriting holds many of the characteristics that made us fall in love with the magical world of wizards in Harry Potter. There is the same fun, intelligence, wit, and of course, a large amount of magic. What it lacks however, is the charm that Harry Potter held.
The story is set in the year 1926. Newt Scamander finds himself in trouble with the MACUSA in New York when his suitcase full of illegal magical beasts is accidentally stolen and some of the creatures within are released upon the city.
The film is based upon a textbook that Harry Potter had to study at Hogwarts, called “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”, written by Newt Scamander.
The differences compared to the British sector of the magical world are glaringly obvious and kind of shocking. Instead of the Ministry of Magic, there is the Magical Congress of the United States of America, a.k.a MACUSA. It doesn’t have the same kind of ring to it does it? It sounds like a pretty harsh name for something meant to be fantastical. Also, whenever I hear it, I keep mistaking it for the Yakuza.
Second shock, and it took me awhile to get what they were saying; non-magical people are not called muggles in America. They are called No-Maj, which doesn’t sound as cool as the word muggle. It sounds a lot more insulting.
Third shock, is how much more brutal the american wizarding community is towards everything. Rather than imprisonment, it seems they like to skip straight to execution. Whether this is because of the decade it is based in however, I am not sure.
Other things that I found odd or annoying, was the explanation for the main evil creature thing which was a little confusing, and does not really fit in with the whole ‘Fantastic Beast’ shtick. Also, the continual references to the evil wizard Grindewald seemed to be unnecessary until they weren’t, and it felt like it was just a set-up to another film rather than a part of this particular story. The third thing that bugged me, and this is the most important, was Ezra Miller’s haircut. Seriously, it creeped me the hell out every time I looked at it.
Despite this, the film does have many memorable moments, and the beasts are indeed, fantastic, especially Niffler and Picket. I just wish that they had more time to go into greater detail on what the beasts were and what they could do. One of my favourite moments was seeing the menagerie of beasts inside the suitcase. It is the most whimsical and magical part of the film. The character of Queenie, is delightfully quirky, and the No-Maj Jacob is lovable and cheeky. Both of which rounded out the film wonderfully.
Considering that this is J.K’s first screenplay, she has done a great job of telling a fun, humorous and often dark story. My hope is that the next installment holds more charm and whimsy that will make me obsess over the fantasy world like I did with the Harry Potter series.
I give it a 3.5 out of 5.