I’m not a huge fan of the Potter films. I adore the books and am a fan of the world, but the films felt… rushed. They had so much information to cram in that, if you hadn’t read the books (or, hadn’t read them in a few years), you had to scramble to keep up.
The great thing about Fantastic Beasts was that you went to it without a world already in your head. There was no book to compare it to. So you had to take the film as a self contained story in itself. It worked beautifully as a story.
The setting is 1920’s New York, where there is a risk of the Muggle world finding out about the Wizarding world and wizards being hunted down. This is highlighted a nod to the Salem witch trials via the New Salem Philanthropic Society, headed up by the creepy Mrs Barebone and family. A dark force is ripping through New York and a definitely not very nice auror called Mr Graves is walking around being all brooding and mysterious. Oh, and Gellert Grindelwald is on the loose somewhere.
Newt Scamander is an English boffin in New York. He has a suitcase full of creatures, some of whom escape. He meets a disgraced auror (Tina) who tries to turn him in. He also befriends a wannabe baker called Jacob. The story is partly about the friendship between the two men.
Newt is socially awkward (and very English at times). He is brilliant with creatures, gently gaining their trust. In many ways, he is at home with the creatures in a way that he can’t be with humans. Tina is also a little awkward. She’s been disgraced as an auror, but really cares and wants her old job back. She had a sister (Queenie) who is a legilimens – she’s very beautiful, but has no ambitions apart from being happy.
I loved that Newt made a friend during the course of the film. I also loved that he wasn’t miraculously cured of his social awkwardness – he was improving though.
The film was visually spectacular, the dialogue was witty, there were plenty little jokes and lots of action and the story hung together well. There was interesting insights into the wizarding world in the US. I especially liked the gigglewater. I wish we had gigglewater.
If you’re a parent and concerned about the content: The film is a certificate 12A. There are a few monsters. Quite of lot of creatures wreaking havoc type violence (presumably, a lot of people get killed) but no gore. One jump scare. There are references to corporal punishment. I took my 9 year old Potterhead to see this. She loved it. If they’ve seen the Harry Potter films, they will have seen more disturbing things than anything in this film.