My weekend with the Fantastic Beasts (spoilers)

November 20, 2016

As some of you who have been following my blog may know, the last couple of weeks I’ve been obsessed with the new film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.  This is the latest from Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling and follows the adventures of Newt Scamander, a British magizoologist (student of magical creatures) who encounters some issues when visiting 1920s New York.  As well as following Newt’s attempts to recapture his fantastic beasts, the movie also explores the challenges facing the American wizarding community of that era.

As well as seeing the film on release day, I also purchased the screenplay (available on Amazon) and the LEGO Dimensions story pack for Fantastic Beasts.  As well a six levels of gameplay taking you through the entire movie, the pack gives you LEGO bricks to build the MACUSA building.

For those who have not yet seen the movie, I’ll continue after the cut as I will be discussing spoilers.  Warning;  complete nerdout follows.

First of all, I will say that I really loved the movie.  I loved seeing the Wizarding World American style in the 1920s.  The acting was good, the special effects were engaging and I look forward to seeing more.  Having said that, what I liked most about that movie was the setup for the next movies.  Rowling has announced that she has planned a series of five movies.  It’s clear that this series is about the rise and fall of dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald as the Harry Potter series is the rise and fall of Lord Voldemort.  Fantastic Beasts as a standalone is not as engaging by a long shot as the first Harry Potter.  As a brief introduction to the the issues facing witches and wizards I loved it.

It left me with a few questions.  Google tells me that Grindelwald was in possession of the Elder Wand at the time of Fantastic Beasts. Since he was temporarily defeated, does that mean Newt or Tina is master of the Wand for a time?  If so, how will they handle it?  Or did he mean to be captured (infiltration?) and so the Wand wouldn’t consider it a defeat?  Although hard to see how as a prisoner he has more influence than Graves.  

Was Ariana Dumbledore an Obscurus? This is certainly the most significant of Newt’s creatures that we meet in the movie.  If so, what does that imply for Grindelwald and Dumbledore’s relationship?  Did Grindelwald find out about Obscuruses through his connection with the Dumbledores or had he planned their meeting because of it?  And if Ariana was an Obscurus, why did Grindelwald not realise that an Obscurus could be older than 10 years old in Fantastic Beasts?

I will say I’m not 100% on board with Johnny Depp’s casting as Grindelwald.  Blond doesn’t suit him.  I also hope that Depp brings the right kind of charisma to Grindelwald.  In this movie we only get to see him snarling vitriol at Newt and President Piquery (as an aside, isn’t it awesome that we have a strong woman – witch – of colour as President in Rowling’s world?)  Like Depp, Grindelwald is said to be very charismatic, but my take on it is that is it not a manic kind of charisma that Depp often shows, rather an ability to win people over.  We saw it in Graves’ interactions with young Credence.

Speaking of casting, I’m interested to see who they cast to play the younger Dumbledore.  t this point, I’m thinking ex Doctor Who Matt Smith.  We know he has the same sense of fun and twinkle in his eye as Dumbledore, and he can certainly pull off Dumbledore’s grief and self doubt.  Also, the final confrontation between him and Johnny Depp’s Grindelwald (rumoured for film five) would be epic.  My only concern is that his character is supposed to be the same age as Johnny Depp’s.  Maybe Smith is too young?

As I mentioned, I also read the script, released as a book.  It added a few interesting notes that I had not picked up on during my viewing of the movie.  For example, Rowling describes Newt as having a Buster Keatonesque walk, out of sync with the rest of New York.  The descriptions of the creatures are also worth reading.

The rest of the weekend I spent playing the LEGO Dimensions Fantastic Beasts game.  I was pleased to note that the cast did some extra voice work for the game so the developers were not restricted to the movie soundtrack.  I have had a lot of fun playing it.  LEGO Dimensions is known for its amusing crossovers.  So far I’ve found two; when you place Mission Impossible’s Ethan Hunt on the gameboard with Tina she is confused.  A super spy?  She then rationalises it as his being some kind of Auror for No-Majs!  She also notes that Newt would be very interested in a talking dog if you put Scooby Doo into the mix!

Anyway, that’s all I have to share on Fantastic Beasts and where to find them.  Let me know if you’ve seen the movie, read the book or play the game!

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