Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, J.K. Rowling's screenplay debut, tells the story of Newt Scamander, a British wizard magizoologist traveling around the world with a suitcase filled with magical creatures. In the first movie of the five-part franchise, Newt arrives in New York City in 1926 for a simple errand, only to find that things become more complicated when some of his creatures accidentally get loose around the city. Meanwhile, as those shenanigans are happening, there is something darker happening around New York, one that threatens to expose wizard kind to No-Majes and what could possibly be connected to the Grindelwald attacks happening in Europe.
I'll be honest, when this movie was first announced I was initially indifferent towards it since I don't necessarily care about Newt, but when the details were coming out on what it would entail, plot-wise, I was intrigued. I'm much more interested in the political aspect with the magical versus non-magical worlds, the conflicts within both communities and how it affects everything and everyone. While we do get some of those conflicts featured in the film, it wasn't as much as I had anticipated. I mean, it was balancing out the wacky shenanigans with recapturing Newt's escaped magical creatures and everything else happened in the background, and the movie did take place over the course of just two days, so anything that I was hoping was to shine more light on was limited in that way. The published screenplay of the film might give more insight, but only slightly. I guess I just wanted more scenes and moments with MACUSA dealing with The Second Salemers and investigating the strange occurrences and keeping everything maintained.
Speaking of which, I'm really impressed with what they did with Ezra Miller's character, Credence Barebone. They really kept the tight-lid on his involvement with the overall plot, and everything that unraveled from that was intriguing. Credence is someone who has magic but, because of his abusive upbringing, he repressed his powers in absolute fear of being found out, but this unfortunately creates the magic to manifest itself in another way, called an Obscurus, a dangerously powerful and disruptive entity. Only children develop this and they don't live longer than the age of ten because the Obscurus pretty much kills them. The movie tries to make it seem like it is Credence's younger sister, Modesty, is this child, but it is actually him who suffers the most abuse from his adoptive mother (and leader of the Second Salemers). By all accounts he shouldn't be alive, but somehow he is. Sadly, this means the Obscurus grew stronger and more uncontrollable and when someone like him who is continually used, abused, ridiculed and manipulated, it's no wonder that he just snaps. He deserved better.
(Which really makes you think what would have happened if Harry himself had gone through something this since he, too, was in an abusive household and told that magic didn't exist and was treated in such a horrible way if he tried anything "unnatural".)
But the main reason why I became significantly interested in seeing this film was because of Colin Farrell who portrayed Percival Graves, the Director of Magical Security at MACUSA.
Now, the reveal in the end that it was actually Grindelwald disguised as Percival the entire time was something I had to really digest afterwards because I had already fallen in love with Percival way before seeing the movie, hell I was already creating headcanons for him just based off of what I knew at the time from interviews and the like. What's interesting though is that, due to some of the promotional material that had come out weeks before the movie premiere, people were already speculating and theorizing that this reveal would be the case. Either he was Grindelwald or a sympathizer to the cause. I know that it was partially my own fault for getting emotionally attached to a character so quickly with having so little information aside from the basic description, but I had wished and hoped that none of that was true. So after seeing the movie, the reveal was not only predictable but also not entirely subtle at all, at least in terms of the scenes with Percival visiting Credence in the shadows and their interactions, which was borderline creepy, and of course with the Deathly Hallows pendant which was a huge giveaway. I was hoping that it would be a red-herring, a mislead, something that wouldn't be what I had feared, and was disappointed by the predictability of the end result.
However, having had time to mull things over after two viewings of the movie already, I have come to a certain resolve.
I firmly believe that Grindelwald pulled a Barty Crouch Jr., impersonating a real person in order to infiltrate MACUSA for his own purpose for however long he was there, which couldn't have been for very long since I don't think he would have the time or the patience with everything else happening. The beginning of the film opens with wizarding newspapers questioning the whereabouts of Grindelwald, wherein Aurors went to apprehend him but he escaped. Considering that the surname Graves is mentioned with the original Aurors when MACUSA was first created, and the position that Percival Graves has as the Director of Magical Security, such a position isn't something that is instantaneously accepted; it takes training and heading up the ranks over years. So, with that in mind, it would be plausible that Grindelwald would want to impersonate someone with such a high ranking and respect so nobody would suspect or question him.
Therefore, there is a real Percival Graves that exists. Whether he was kidnapped, locked up, or killed when confronting Grindelwald is still a huge question left up in the air. Personally, I really hope he is still alive and he makes an appearance somewhere in the rest of the movies, because there is so much potential with his character and I want to know about him, the real him.
That is my belief, and I'm sticking with it. Mostly because I've already been creating headcanons of his character and regardless he'll always be alive in my heart. ♥
Other things I loved about the movie:
++ The magical creatures were rather interesting. I really liked Niffler, because he was adorable little shit who liked to cause trouble all because of shiny things. There were some that I recognized from the books and the Fantastic Beasts booklet, but otherwise it was interesting seeing the rest of the creatures featured. The Thunderbird was absolutely majestic.
++ Queenie was adorable, and I really liked the setup of Queenie/Jacob. It was said it was love at first sight, and you can immediately tell. Their chemistry were instantaneous, and their dynamic was just darling, especially since he didn't mind that she could read his mind. Of course the only obstacle they have is that there cannot be any relations between anyone magical and No-Majes, as it is forbidden due to security risk. The ending was bittersweet because Jacob had to be Obliviated to prevent such a risk, thus him forgetting everything he had gone through with Newt, Tina and Queenie, all of that magical adventure. But the ending also had a hopeful note that Jacob retained at least some residual memory since his inspirations for his baked goods are of the magical creatures. Plus, when Queenie appeared, it was like their first meeting all over again, leading to some hope with them in the future.
++ MACUSA is such a better name than the Ministry of Magic. It's also much prettier. I kinda wished we had seen more of the place, like the different offices, I also wished we had gotten a better look into Percival's office. We only had a brief look and it was from an awkward angle.
++ I'm getting used to saying No-Maj now than before.
++ A special appreciative thanks to the costume designer, Colleen Atwood, who not only created the very memorable and fabulous outfit that Colin wears as Percival Graves, but also managed to make the American wizarding community much more modern-looking than their British counterparts. I mean, it could just be because it's the 1920s and that was the fashion of the time, but I much prefer what they wore here than in the HP films. I mean, the Aurors are wearing trenchcoats instead of wizarding robes. I approve.
++ The overall 1920s aesthetic, from the sets and details of the clothing to the music, it was all fabulous and wonderful.
++ COLIN FARRELL WAS FINE AS FUCK, LIKE GODDAMN. BLESS THIS CASTING. PLEASE HAVE HIM BE IN MORE AS PERCIVAL AGAIN BECAUSE YESSS. (ﾉ◕ヮ◕)ﾉ*:･ﾟ✧
Some things that I didn't really like / wished had been done better:
-- As mentioned, there were some things that were predictable and did disappoint me. While I enjoyed the movie, it felt a bit rushed with so much information about what was happening, and yet not enough was shown that I thought was going to be fully explored. Again, the entirety of the film took place over two days so covering everything would've been an overload, but at the same time I felt like the film could've been edited just a bit better than it was to make events flow more fluidly? I don't know. I just think that there was a lot of missing information that could have made situations make more sense. I just feel like we didn't get enough with the American wizarding community, especially with MACUSA, and certainly not enough with President Picquery.
-- Sadly, the film does suffer from lack of racial diversity. True, there are POC featured but they're mostly in the background or only featured briefly. I only hope that the rest of the films have more representation, but if not then that's NAGL.
-- Interestingly, some of the footage shown in the trailers weren't shown in the film. I mean, it's not uncommon for different shots and angles to be used or for scenes to be missing because that's how film editing works, but there were just a handful of scenes that were seen in the trailers that just weren't there in the final product. It makes me hope they're at least in the deleted scenes.
-- Johnny Depp being cast Grindelwald. Fuck no, such a miscast. Nearly ruined the experience for me, tbqh, especially with the whole reveal. Get him out.
Overall: I really enjoyed the movie. As someone who went in with little to no expectations aside from my emotional attachment to a particular character, it was pretty good. Was it perfect? No. Was it entertaining, fun, and a great way to escape the real world for a little while? Absolutely. And that is exactly what I needed right now, and I'm so happy that I did.