1926. British wizard Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) arrives by boat to New York City en route to Arizona. He encounters Mary Lou Barebone (Samantha Morton), a non-magical woman (“No-Maj” or “muggle”) who heads the New Salem Philanthropic Society. She claims that witches and wizards are real and dangerous and incites to hatred. As Newt is listening to her speech, a Niffler
escapes from his magically-expanded suitcase, which houses multiple magical creatures. He attempts to capture it but unsuccessfully. During the pursuit he meets a No-Maj cannery worker and aspiring baker Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) and they accidentally swap suitcases.
Meanwhile Porpentina/Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) a demoted Auror who has observed Mary Lou Barebone’s street sermon, arrests Newt for being an unregistered wizard and takes him to the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA) headquarters, hoping to regain her former position. However, President Seraphina Picquery (Carmen Ejogo) and Director of the Magical Security Percival Graves (Colin Farrell) dismiss the case. At Jacob’s apartment, several creatures escape from Newt’s suitcase and all the hell is let loose. Will Newt manage to catch the animals and prevent a major magical disaster?
I was sitting on the fence whether to watch or not to watch this one for quite a long time. On the one hand I used to be a HP fan. On the other hand movies based on HP series have never impressed me a lot, not quite. I was definitely too lazy to go to cinema just to see Fantastic Beasts; still when I got a chance to watch it at home I decided to give it a go.
Overall my impressions were rather positive. Eddie Redmayne’s boyish charm, duck-footed walk, and awed whisper worked pretty well and the CGI beasts were a joy to watch, especially the niffler and the Thunderbird. The plot was moderately amusing and moderately engaging – I wasn’t bored but I didn’t immerse myself completely in the magical world either. Still I think it would be the best if you watched this one knowing nothing at all about Harry Potter and the whole Potterverse; otherwise you might start asking yourself stupid questions. How come wizards cannot apparate across continents and the Floo Network doesn’t work either? Why the school years of Newt, ending with expulsion, were so similar to the personal story of Hagrid, the Hogwards gamekeeper? Why Skamander couldn’t leave all his pets at home but had to drag them along? Wasn’t Grindelwald supposed to be rather a looker? Stupid, stupid questions…
My other, non Potterverse-related carping concerned the character of Jacob Kowalski. In my humble opinion he didn’t look Polish, rather Italian – either the director should have chosen another actor or he should have named him Jacopo Mancini or something. After a while I also got annoyed with Queenie (Alison Sudol), the flirty sister of Tina. She was not a bad character per se but her enthusiasm for Kowalski, whom she viewed like another fantastic beast worth utter worship and attention, sometimes bordered with inanity. After all Queenie wasn’t living in a kind of magical enclave, she was a New Yorker and had an opportunity to watch and meet non-magical people every day; in fact her landlady was non-magical as well so I couldn’t quite grasp the reason of all that fascination.
A decent family movie, especially if you are looking for something non-Christmas-themed for the holiday season, but, overall, nothing to write home about. If you happen to remember anything about the Potterverse you will have a lot of fun. Or not.