The story of the film is centered around Newt Scamander, a man from Britain who was kicked out of Hogwarts and has a deep interest in magical creatures. He carries a leather suitcase which is filled with magical creatures that he has collected over time and which he cares for. He has been doing research into these magical creatures and observing them in order to be able to write a book about them. Some of his creatures get out of the suitcase while he is in New York in the 1920s and problems arise in the city, while an even bigger problem is of concern.
I wanted to read the book before watching the film so that I'd know the end result of Newt's research and also to give me some information about the magical creatures that I would be seeing in the film. The book that Newt Scamander wrote about magical creatures (actually written by J.K. Rowling with the proceeds going to Comic Relief) is a textbook used at Hogwarts and the copy that was made available to Muggles is a copy that was owned by Harry Potter and shared by Ron Weasley because his copy apparently fell apart. The book therefore has little notes written on several pages by Harry and Ron (as well as a few by Hermione), which are quite comical and also remind us of certain events and characters from the main book series. The book starts off with an introduction to magical characters, some information about the history of magical creatures, and the Ministry of Magic classifications for magical creatures. The rest of the book is an A-Z list of the magical creatures with information for each one.
It was interesting to read about each of the magical creatures and it was fun to imagine that I was reading a Hogwarts textbook as if I was an actual student at the school. There are specific creatures that readers will remember from the main book series and there are other creatures that were not really mentioned in the books. It's a fun read but it is definitely a comedic informational text and not a story.
Just like with the book, I decided to read the screenplay before watching the film. Some people might think that to be a bit odd since reading the screenplay would mean that I'd know exactly what happens in the film. It's different from reading the novel of a story before watching the film because with a film adapted from a novel, you still don't know how they adapted it whereas a screenplay reveals all of the dialogue, actions, etc. of the film. You're basically just "reading" the film. I chose to read the screenplay before watching the film, however, because J.K. Rowling wrote the screenplay and so I wanted to keep up my tradition of reading her writing before seeing the films and I wanted to really appreciate the work that she put into this film. There were still surprises when I eventually watched the film since I had pictured things in my head while reading the screenplay and now I finally got to see what the filmmakers actually came up with for costumes, locations, props, etc.
Firstly, I just want to mention how much I love the cover of the published screenplay and all of the little illustrations inside, most of which were illustrations of the magical creatures. The style of the cover and illustrations definitely gives the printed book that 1920s feel and it was fun to get an idea of what the magical creatures look like in a 1920s style of illustration.
The story is very interesting, especially since it's a story set in the wizarding world of Harry Potter but it doesn't involve the character of Harry Potter. I loved Newt Scamander's concern and caring nature towards magical creatures. He wants them to be protected rather than killed. Other characters were afraid of the creatures and some would prefer that the creatures be destroyed but Newt showed that the creatures can be very nice if you are simply careful and show kindness towards them. It can be compared to animals in the human world. We need to be careful around certain animals because they can hurt us but we can learn to live in harmony with them. After all, we all share this planet.
I also loved how friendship was shown to be very important, just like in the Harry Potter books. Newt works together with fellow magical people, Tina and her sister Queenie, as well as a non-magical person, Jacob. He sees how he is able to change their thoughts towards magical creatures (they are scared of them at first but then they become interested and they start caring about the creatures) and they all contribute, in some way, to solving the problems at hand.
The story also touches on racism. Newt mentions how in America they don't allow magical people to marry or even become friends with non-magical people. Any non-magical person who finds out about magic has to be obliviated meaning that they forget everything that they learned about magic. We see how Newt, Tina, and Queenie become friends with Jacob and eventually don't want him to be obliviated. Especially Queenie, who falls in love with Jacob. On the non-magical side, the non-magical people who know about witchcraft are against it because it scares them and they see it as a threat. They only see it as being a bad thing. We see that one of these characters, however, wants to embrace magic because he is magical himself, although he tries to hide his magic. This is where we also see ties to what some LGBTQ+ people go through in real life.
The screenplay is very good and has some great messages of friendship and challenges. I think J.K. Rowling did a great job for her first time writing one!
It was interesting to watch the film after reading the screenplay because, as mentioned before, I knew every line and every action but it reminded me of reading Shakespeare plays in high school and then watching a film adaptation of the plays. I loved getting to see the screenplay visually and seeing how the actors interpreted the script. So, I actually don't have a whole lot to say about the story of the film since I already talked about that when explaining what I thought about the screenplay. Instead, I'll talk about what I thought about the acting and seeing everything visually.
I loved how Eddie Redmayne, the actor who played Newt Scamander, acted quiet and shy. He really fit the character of someone who is more comfortable with animals than he is with people. On the other hand, I thought that Alison Sudol, the actress who played Queenie, should have spoken louder. I understand that maybe she had a lighter, more quiet voice to go with her innocent, flirtatious personality but I personally thought that her flirtatious personality would be the thing that would make her voice a bit louder and less soft to match her more talkative, outgoing self.
I really thought that the special effects were great. I loved seeing Newt and Jacob go into and out of the leather suitcase, especially when Jacob made it bounce as he tried to push his way through. It all looked so real! I also really liked seeing the magical creatures that I had to picture in my head as I read the screenplay and which I also read about in the "textbook." My favourite creatures were the bowtruckle and the demiguise. The bowtruckle that Newt carried around was so cute and the demiguise ended up being a sweetheart.
I loved the film and I am really excited to see what happens in the next four films since this was just the first of five!