As an avid Harry Potter fan, I was eager to go back in to the delicious wizarding world. I watched this my kids aged 11 and 7 and both thoroughly enjoyed it.
Yes, the PG- 13 is important, the dark theme and disturbing violence and deaths might be too much for younger Potterheads. I reached over to my 7 year old atleast 4 times during the movie to check if he was alright. (He enjoyed the movie though with no after effect nightmares)
The movie is a prequel to harry Potter, set in 1920s Manhattan. Yet with its themes of a society divided, persecution of minorities and need for tolerance, the film finds itself to be perfectly timed.
An almost shy wizard, arrives with his mysterious suitcase in New York and finds himself in the midst of simmering tension between wizards and those without magical powers and the onslaught of dark power threatening the city. Newt’s Narnian suitcase with his “fantastic beasts” gets swapped with a No-Maj (American for ‘Muggle’) and the creatures are loose. A recently demoted Auror and her sister, along with the endearing No-Mag help him to capture these beasts all the while avoiding the ire of the New Salem Philanthropic Society, thirsting to burn the witches. The plot thickens as dark forces are at work with Percival Graves from MACUSA (Magical Congress of the United States of America) secretly meeting an intense troubled young man who has been adopted by an anti-wizard crusader. There is plenty happening here for this movie and the four more to come, just enough delicious references to the Harry Potter world , and strong enough characters introduced with many layers to explore. (A lovely reveal of the villian at the end, makes me even more excited for whats in store)
What we loved
- All the wildly imaginative creatures are a marvel to look at, from the adorable Niffler, who loves to hunt for shiny things, the Bowtruckle, the enormous Erumpent with the lava horn, as my son calls it, and the awesome show stopper Thunderbird. The world inside the suitcase is where my 7 year loved the movie. We almost wished the movie had stuck to its title and made it a full movie on just the Fantastic beasts.
What we missed
- This is definitely a more grown-up movie, unlike the original Harry Potter movies, the main characters here are all adults, and the story is much more of a suspense thriller than a kiddie adventure.
- I would have loved to see some of the Harry Potter beasts.. Aragog , Buckbeak , Fang, Fluffy and Norbert (my son’s personal favourite)
- There is not too many fun or laughable moments in the movie besides a few moments with the naughty Niffler or the tempermental Pickett. Lot of the dark and morose feel of the latter Harry Potter movies
What we talked about:
Now I am a teacher at heart and love exploring themes with movies. So while “Fantastic Beasts” is indeed fantastical, but many themes and references and issues in this film are timeless.
- Heros and role models -Is Newt Scamander a heroic role model? How does he demonstrate courage and compassion? Is his kindness an important character strength? Are Tina and Queenie strong female characters?
- Cruelty and bullying and abuse– People who feel different and stigmatized are certainly at the heart of this movie. What effect did bullying and abuse have on Credence? Can keeping magic inside be a parallel for keeping anger bottled up? Does dark thoughts and uncontrolled rage have the power to destroy?
- Fear – Why are things scarier when they’re unknown? What is your first thought when you see a beast? Why? Try to think of how each of this beast views you? Is the human the most dangerous beast – poaching , hunting , endangered species etc
As always, as a parent, I think nothing is as important as giving the ability to think and discriminate between right and wrong and developing empathy in our children. This movie is a great starter for that conversation.