Didn’t Match the Book

By Tina Marie Canalita, academic scholar and contributing author

Devotion: I possessed too much of it in its purest sense when it came to Harry Potter; I read each book before I watched each movie, and that was problematic. Friends and family often thought I’d gone insane because I would yell at the screen, mumble curse words, and rant incessantly about how the movie didn’t match the book. Ergo, that’s why I tried to do things differently this time around.

To say that I had great expectations for J.K. Rowling‘s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is an understatement. I purposely avoided the trailers because I didn’t want anything to influence my perspective. And for the same reason, I never read the book or researched the main character, Newt Scamander. Even though I’m not fond of prequels, I still wanted a clean slate for this particular one.

Okay, let’s discuss the beasts. I proudly admit that I prefer a character-driven plot for a film series. The actions of each character have consequences, and this ultimately drives the plot. I love how everyone is interconnected. Overall, I felt that Eddie Redmayne‘s portrayal of Newt was a bit flat and uninspired. The actor just didn’t seem to be the right “fit” for Newt. Again, because I’m not familiar with the character, I could be mistaken. If I had only read the book, I would have been a bit more critical about Redmayne—just perhaps.

However, given the fact that Mr. Scamander is a supposed expert in his field and currently the sole caretaker of a multitude of magical creatures (some of which are extremely dangerous), I wanted to see a more mature and responsible character. Dare I say, a leader—or, at least, someone with the potential to be a strong leader? Perhaps he does have potential, but I didn’t see it. Again, if I had only read the book…

Couple this with the lack of a backstory for Newt, and I felt a nagging sense of disappointment. He is the main character, so there should’ve been more than just a glimmer of something from his past. Yes, the ever-present old photograph of the girl is a nice mysterious touch, but it’s not enough for me. Hopefully Rowling will provide more information in her next installment. I wonder if Newt’s full story will be as shockingly memorable as Snape’s was?

Fortunately, Newt’s friends were lively and entertaining. I liked the snapshots of Tina’s backstory, and the blossoming romance between Jacob and Queenie was unexpected but lovely. Their relationship also foreshadows the rise of half-blood children through mixed marriages between muggles and pure-bloods.

The odd relationship between Percival Graves and the teenager named Credence had a disturbing, almost-incestuous undertone that was just unnecessary, so I’ll leave it at that. On the other hand, the Salem Witch Hunter-ish character, Mary Lou Barebone, was simultaneously terrific and terrifying. Her story clearly set the foundation upon which the fear and hatred of the magical community will be fostered and, eventually, come to fruition in the Harry Potter series. I can better understand why the magic folks wanted to keep their world a secret.

For me, these are the things that stood out:

-The creatures (some new, some recognizable).

-The glorious magic that I’ve been craving since the last Potter movie disappeared from theaters.

-New York in the 1920s…simply adored it!

-The wickedly fabulous twist with Johnny Depp as Gellert Grindelwald (disguised as Graves). Depp simply must continue his portrayal of Grindelwald in the subsequent movies, or I will boycott all of them!

As I mentioned above, prequels don’t usually appeal to me. They never seem to live up to the original movies (Star Wars comes to mind). And obviously Fantastic Beasts was plot-driven, which is acceptable at this point. Sadly, it still lacked some important character details that would’ve made it a more enjoyable movie for me. Alas, I’ve been spoiled by the story of The Boy Who Lived.

But, because I’m an eternal optimist, I keep hoping that the perfect prequel will magically appear over our heads like Dobby’s infamous pudding cake. And, I refuse to let the wizarding world die off, so YES, I will watch ALL of the upcoming films in the Beasts franchise…for better or worse, in good times and bad. Here’s hoping for no boycotting in the near future.