Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them (book & movie)

A review by Nalini Haynes

Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them begins with Tina (Katherine Waterston), dressed in early 20th century clothing, eating a hotdog while watching Mary Lou (Samantha Morton) preach against magical creatures to a crowd.

Newt (Eddie Redmayne) alights from a ship with a somewhat animated suitcase to which he utters soothing words. When going through customs, he sets the suitcase to Muggle-friendly mode. Once through customs, he passes Tina in the crowd on bank steps. One of his magical creatures escapes so he follows it into a bank.

A comical and creative sequence follows, light and full of fun. Eventually — later than I initially thought would happen — Newt accidentally switches suitcases with Kowalski (Dan Fogler), a lovely man who wants to be a baker.

Tina takes Newt in to custody for a breach of magical protocols. Thus the pair team up, somewhat uncomfortably and unwillingly, to try to recapture escaped magical creatures. They have a fun adventure with Capone-gangster types, government intrigue and a hunt for a rogue magical person, all while searching for the magical creatures and trying to avoid Muggles’ attention. Not to mention added romance between two side-kicks.

One sequence in a particular reminds me of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: we’re introduced to a series of unique magical creatures, a walk down fantasy lane that also foreshadows the plot.

However, Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) is introduced early on via spinning headlines and he appears at the end; he’s the new Voldemort upon which this new Harry Potter series depends.

It wasn’t until I went searching for my thesis that I realised that Voldemort was supposed to be an albino. My first glance at Johnny Depp as Grindelwald was a kick to the guts because he’s even more obviously intended to be an albino. Let’s hear it for the evil albino trope. [gnashing of teeth]

The movie is a high quality production and seems to have a higher frame rate than Beauty and the Beast so it doesn’t blur out every time there’s movement.

The costumes are gorgeous, the choice of era appeals and feels fresh. Firefly mashes Westerns and science fiction; Fantastic Beasts blends Capone-style movies and fantasy with a dash of romance. I loved it right up until the last scene.

The book is exquisite. The dust jacket has gold embossing, decorative end pages and embellishments on every page. Fantastic Beasts follows the traditional formatting of screen plays in that the text is centred. Dinkuses (the motifs used to show time passing or scene changes) are decorative as well as extra features top and bottom of the page. I found it very difficult to read because the embellishments and shifting of text were impediments to me as a vision impaired reader. However, Fantastic Beasts is a beautiful book and a worthy collector’s item.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (movie)Fantastic beasts and where to find them (novel)