Guest Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them (2016)



It’s going to be hard for me not to turn this into a fifty-page essay, because I am an enormous Harry Potter fan. I have been since I was ten years old. I’ve re-read all the books more times than I can remember, I wrote so much embarrassingly bad fan-fiction as a preteen, and I’ve attended multiple book and movie midnight releases in costume (more recently than I’d care to admit). Like every other Harry Potter fan in the world, I was psyched to hear about the Fantastic Beasts films, but, like many other fans, I was also nervous.

I’ve already been disappointed in new Harry Potter-related media released this year (damn you, Cursed Child), and a lot of the details J.K. Rowling has released about the Fantastic Beasts movie and the Wizarding culture in America has been even less promising (such as Muggles being called “No-Maj”). My expectation was that the writing would fall flat, but the visuals would be beautiful. My expectations were mostly met.


Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, named for the fictional textbook from the Harry Potter series, follows its author, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), on his adventure through 1926 New York City where, through a series of mishaps, he loses his case full of magical creatures. Several of the creatures get loose, and it’s up to Newt, ex-employee of the Magical Congress of the USA Tina (Katherine Waterston), her sister Queenie (Alison Sudol), and No-Maj Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) to retrieve them before the Wizarding World is exposed.

I think J.K. Rowling is a much better novelist than a screenwriter. She’s not used to writing within the time constraints of a movie, which meant this one was messy, disorganized, and lacked exposition in areas where it was sorely needed. The biggest example of this comes toward the end, in the most infuriatingly stupid deus ex machina I have seen in a long time. I won’t go into detail to avoid spoilers, but trust me, you’ll know it when you see it. It was exciting to see the Wizarding World in a different location and time period, but it was a shaky introduction. It was recently announced that the film series was expanded from a trilogy into a five-part series, so hopefully the next four movies will be paced better now that Rowling has more time to work with.

Queenie and Tina
Dan Fogler as Jacob

That said, there is still so much about this movie that I loved. The four main characters are incredibly well-written; they’re all likeable and have unique personalities that don’t just feel like movie stereotypes. The actors do an amazing job bringing the characters to life, especially lead Eddie Redmayne; his shy, awkward, quirky personality was delightful. My one critique is that his tendency to mumble his lines made it hard to understand what he was saying. Dan Fogler as Jacob Kowalski, the sole No-Maj pulled into the magical adventure, is excellent as well. He could have easily fallen into the overused role of a slapstick comedic sidekick, but he brought so much heart to the character.

The most memorable part of this movie, though, was the design of titular fantastic beasts. The visuals in this movie are phenomenal. The creatures range from being so adorable it hurts my heart, to breathtakingly majestic. They’re also surprisingly faithful to the descriptions in the original book; the designers were clearly familiar with the source material, and as a die-hard fan, I appreciated the attention to detail.

While there were obvious flaws in this movie, I still really enjoyed it, both as a Harry Potter fan and as a moviegoer. I would absolutely watch it again, and I’m eager to see how the next four go.

laurasLaura Schaubschlager is a Winona State University graduate with a B.A. in English, which is seldom put to use in my health insurance career (outside of cringing at the grammatical errors my superiors make in their emails). I’m an avid horror fan (movies, novels, video games- anything that makes me hesitate when I go to turn off the light at night), and I’m always looking for writing opportunities, although my current portfolio is made up of partially-completed short stories and an occasionally-updated blog:

Have you seen ‘Fantastic Beasts’? Well, what did you think? 

17 thoughts on “Guest Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them (2016)

  1. Nice review Laura! I’m also a big fan of the Harry Potter world, loved all of the books and most of the movie; the first two films were unwatchable to me and the sixth film was very disappointing. But I thought the rest were great and have watched them several times. For the books, I think my favorite has to be the fourth one, I wish they’d split the movie version into two films since they cut out so many good things from that book.

    As for this film, I somehow wasn’t that excited to see it at all. I’ll eventually see it but I don’t have to urge to see it right now. You’re so right about authors who tried their hands at screenwriting and many of them failed. Stephen King and Cormac McCarthy are the two big names I can think of who failed at writing for films. When you write screenplay, you have to describe every single scenes and scenarios, it’s totally different than novels.

    1. Oh, my goodness, I know what you mean about King. Did you see The Shining mini-series he wrote? It was more faithful to the book, of course, but good lord, it was BORING. I’m hoping Rowling’s screenwriting skills will improve over the next four movies, but she’s off to a shaky start. Even if you don’t see it in theaters, though, I’d recommend renting the DVD or catching it on TV or something for the magical creatures alone. As a Harry Potter fan, I have to say they’re more faithfully adapted to film than all seven books were. And they look incredible!

      1. Oh yeah I remember The Shining mini-series, I thought it’s awful. Sure it’s more faithful to the book but you’re right, it’s so boring and inferior to Kubrick’s film version. King also wrote and directed a film called Maximum Overdrive, his first foray into filmmaking and it’s one of the worst things I’ve ever seen. Avoid it at all cost if you’ve never seen it.

        I’m surprised that the studio didn’t bring other writers to polish up Rowling’s script, usually for movies this size, they’d bring in a least one or two writers to fix the script. I wonder if she put in her contract that her script can’t be tweak, she received sole writing credit. But hope her screening skill improves for the sequels.

        1. Haha, yeah, I’ve heard how bad Maximum Overdrive is. That’s the one where the trucks try to kill everyone, right?

          I am too! I checked IMDB and it credits Rowling as the only writer, so it doesn’t look like they had anyone else helping her. She’s talented, though, so hopefully she can grow as a screenwriter with the next four films.

  2. I…haven’t seen a single Harry Potter movie and yet this looks like something I want to see…but you say it’s messy and that scares me.

    Maybe I should just watch Harry Potter instead.

    Or something else.

    1. If you’re not a Harry Potter fan, I wouldn’t blame you for not catching it in theaters. I pretty much went out of loyalty to the fandom (and this blog, haha). If it happens to be on TV or you can rent the DVD, though, it’s worth it. As a general fantasy/adventure movie, it’s pretty fun. And visually, it’s really beautiful…even if the storytelling is a bit of a mess.

  3. Hey Laura! Great review girl, I feel the same way about the script. I think Rowling should stick to writing novels. I just think overall the story is underwhelming, esp in regards to the villains. Plus the ending is so messy and way too bombastic w/ no emotional payoff. I do like Dan Fogler’s Jacob a lot, and Queenie is so lovely! I don’t think I’m interested in seeing the sequels now.

    1. Thanks, Ruth! Ugh, I know what you mean about the villains. I could write a completely separate rant about how many problems I had with that. I totally agree about the ending as well. Jacob and Queenie were both lovely, though, as was Newt (Eddie Redmayne is definitely on my celebrity husband list, haha). I’ll definitely still see the sequels; I just won’t go into them with high expectations.

      1. I wasn’t impressed at all w/ Ezra Miller’s sulky performance, just what the heck is THAT in the incredibly bombastic ending?? Colin Farrell was disappointing too after his excellent performance in The Lobster. Ahah, I actually don’t find Redmayne attractive at all, I’ve been in love w/ English actor Sam Riley for the past year, and a French actor who’s not well-known at all but he’s sooo dreamy 😉

        1. I’m withholding my opinion on Credence until the next movie, just because he was more of a subplot until that mess at the end. I like Ezra Miller so I’m hoping I’ll like him more as the series continues. I think Colin Farrell would have actually been good as a Grindelwald supporter, because he has that cold, menacing vibe, but the way things ended for his character ruined things. I’ve only seen Sam Riley in Maleficent, but he’s definitely a cutie. I could totally see him in a HP-universe movie too. Not sure who he’d play, though. He’s a little young to be young Dumbledore, so maybe a new character.

          1. This is the first time I saw Ezra so not really a good impression, ahah. But hopefully he’ll impress me in other roles. I like Colin but he’s kinda a hit and miss. But I think their characters are just poorly-written.

            As for Sam Riley, well I think Maleficent is kinda a poor intro to him as an actor as he barely got anything to do. He was phenomenal in CONTROL as the real life frontman of the band Joy Division. I can’t recommend that movie enough, it’s one of the best music biopics ever. He’s also good in On The Road w/ Kristen Stewart, though the film itself is far from perfect. Oh no, I don’t think Sam would make a young Dumbledore, ahah.

            1. Agreed. They’re both talented, but they didn’t have much to work with, unfortunately.

              I’ll have to check out some more movies with Sam Riley! I checked out his IMDB page and there are several movies he’s in that I’ve heard of but haven’t gotten a chance to see yet, but I’m definitely curious. Haha, yeah, as talented as I’m sure he is, they definitely need someone a little older for Dumbledore. Hopefully I won’t be as disappointed in who they cast as him as I was in Grindelwald. >_<

  4. Nice review! I agree – the characters and visiting the wizarding world again was fun. The movie, mostly the script, struggled though to establish this as a firm start for the upcoming five movies. I’m looking forward to but also a bit hesitant about what happens next. 😀

    1. Thanks so much, Katy! I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who thought it was a shaky introduction to a new series. I’m hopeful that it’ll improve as it progresses though!

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  6. I agree with your mixed feelings and your comment about Rowling being a better novelist than script writer. I found some of the concepts and plot points in the movie to be sloppily constructed, compared to the ingenious ideas and theories that supported the HP novels. I would love to watch it again but it hasn’t spurned the same obsessive streak with me.

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