This evening I went to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them with my friend Mistress Rose Marian from our local SCA group, the Marche of Tirnewydd.  I had missed the opening night last night.  There was a sold-out showing with dinner and drinks beforehand sponsored by Ohio State University’s Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, where my Medieval Lit professor is assistant director.

The “Beastly Bash,” as last night’s CMRS event was called, was a bit out of my budget, so I delayed until today for an early evening showing.  There was also a free public lecture yesterday at Ohio State by a noted scholar about medieval bestiaries and their relationship to the Harry Potter franchise.  I missed that as well. But never mind: it’s all good!

Fantastic Beasts is the prequel to the Harry Potter movies and comes from J.K. Rowlings’ book Wizarding World, which I have not read.  Here is first the field guide cover, then the cover of the pop-up book, which I find extraordinarily attractive.  I love pop-up books even as an adult.


That pop-up book is awfully tempting, or it was until I read the reviews of people who had bought it on Amazon.  It’s only five pages long, and apparently the best illustration is the artwork of the cover.  Oh well.  As they say, don’t judge a book by its cover!

But back to the movie Fantastic Beasts.  Rose Marian and I elected not to see it in 3-D because we both wear glasses and attempting to enjoy 3-D movies wearing the theater glasses on top of your regular glasses is discombobulating to say the least.  I kind of hated seeing a recent Star Wars movie when another friend and I went to a 3-D showing and I could barely follow the action through two sets of spectacles.  So if I have a choice in the matter, I’ll choose the regular version.  And save a couple of bucks. 🙂

The movie Fantastic Beasts is set seventy years before Harry Potter reads the book about magical beasts, and is about Newt Scamander, who writes the book.  It’s about his experiences as a young Englishman who has arrived in a New York City when the American wizarding world has outlawed the possession of magical beasts, several of which have arrived with Scamander in his modest suitcase.  Many thrilling adventures soon follow.

To make it short and sweet:  I loved this movie!  In fact, I preferred it to any of the Harry Potter films, a preference which I bet will not make my die-hard Harry Potter fan friends feel any fonder towards me. 😛

But perhaps there is an explanation. I had read all the Harry Potter books before I saw any of the movies.  And, as I noted in my earlier review of The Girl On the Train, I almost always prefer the books to the movies.  I think it’s because books are able to be more detailed and discursive and idea-driven than films.

And also because my imagination is very strongly visual when I’m reading. Those images formed in my mind cannot usually be equalled by even the best special effects or casting or other film elements. And speaking of casting, when I did go see the Harry Potter movies, I was disappointed by the casting of Daniel Radcliffe as Harry.  Not because of his acting abilities, by any means.  He just didn’t LOOK like the Harry Potter I had imagined when I read the books.

Here in Fantastic Beasts I had no previous reading experience that could give me any preconceptions that the movie didn’t live up to.  Also, the fantastic beasts in the movie are TRULY fantastic!  I’m not sure that I could have imagined them any better than they were portrayed in the film.  Here’s one of my favorites, a tiny walking plant “with attachment issues:”

And the human casting was also delightful.


I especially liked Dan Fogler as Jacob Kowalski, the lovable baking muggle. 🙂  And of course Eddie Redmayne as hero Newt Scamander, writer and protector of magical beasts. The setting in Manhattan in the 20’s was also really well-done.

The wizards’ speakeasy was quite well portrayed, too, with Ron Perlman playing the heavy:

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and can’t recommend it highly enough.  Although maybe not for four-year-olds.  Rose Marian was giving the film a review for a friend with four-year-olds to see whether she thought they would like it.  And she and I agreed that it was probably too dark for such young kids.  In another couple of years maybe.

For older kids and any adult who is young at heart, I give it both thumbs up!