Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is rated 12A for moderate threat
The Scoop – A charming, if flawed first instalment in a new wizarding series
It’s 1926, and a storm is gathering in both the wizarding and non-wizarding worlds. In the midst of this, magical zoologist Newt Scamandar (Eddie Redmayne) arrives in New York, fresh from travelling the world and collecting an enchanted suitcase full of strange and wonderful creatures.
He couldn’t have picked a worse time. When several of his fantastical beasts break free from the case and are let loose on the streets of the city, the secrecy of the wizarding community – who live in suspicion of their non-magical (‘No-Maj’) neighbours – is threatened. With the help of witching sisters Tina (Katherine Waterston) and Queenie (Alison Sudol), and of unsuspecting No-Maj Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), Newt must round up his creatures or face the wrath of the American wizarding authorities.
Is it possible to have too much of a good thing? Fans of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series have had cause to ask themselves this in the last year or two, given the arrival of spin-off play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and the announcement of not just one but potentially five Fantastic Beasts films.
The first instalment of this new franchise may both calm and stoke fans’ fears. There’s a lot to like about it: glimpsing a new era of the magical world feels like a genuine treat, Redmayne and Waterston in particular are hugely charming, and the creatures themselves are adorable. However, the plot feels unfocused, and the second half of the film devolves into the kind of city-destroying carnage that seems to have become obligatory in today’s blockbusters.
But I for one am happy to be along for the ride, and to see where the series goes. Next time, less CGI destruction, please, and more focus on the characters.
- Did you enjoy the film, and why or why not? How much did you know about the wizarding world going in? Do you think you need to be a Harry Potter fan to understand or enjoy Fantastic Beasts?
- What did you think of the story’s setting? What were some of your favourite details from the American wizarding world? Which sets and costumes stood out to you, and why?
- What did you think of the CGI effects, particularly the fantastic beasts themselves? Which creature was your favourite?
- How did you react to Newt as a protagonist, and of Eddie Redmayne’s performance? What do Newt’s interactions with animals tell us about him, as opposed to his interactions with humans? What hints are we given about his past?
You’re not just a man, Mr. Scamander. Just like your suitcase, I think there’s much more to you than meets the eye. – Percival Graves (Colin Farrell)
- Which of the other characters did you find most interesting, and why? Which performances stood out to you? Who would you like to see more of in future instalments?
- How does the film explore the idea of intolerance? Who is intolerant towards whom, and what motivates them? What are some of the consequences of prejudice in the story?
- Did the film feel topical to you, and if so, why? What does intolerance look like in our world today? What does Fantastic Beasts have to say about the power of education and understanding, over violence and fear?
- How did you react to the concept of an ‘Obscurus’, a dark force which can be unleashed by young witches or wizards forced to repress their magic? What real-world parallels might this idea have? How can repression be a destructive force?
- What did you think of the ‘twist’ at the end of the story, and what do you think will happen next? What mysteries and questions are we left with as as the credits roll?