Warning! Here be spoilers!
If you wish to remain unspoiled, turn back now.
Don't say I didn't warn you!
I am literally just in the door from having seen Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (hereafter referred to as 'Fantastic Beasts' because I've been up since 6am and awake since 5am for this little jaunt to the mainland and I've not got the energy to call it anything longer). As soon as this post is done, I'm heading to bed for Christmas films and sleeping.
When I heard about this Harry Potter series prequel/spin-off I was in two minds about whether or not I wanted to see it. Of course, the part of me that desperately wants to join the Wizarding World quickly won and I made plans with Mr Click to see it as soon as possible.
And thanks to my dodgy wisdom teeth and a promise that if I got to see it pretty soon after it came out I wouldn't make a fuss about having to go see a dentist about getting knocked out for them to be pulled, we got to see it today. I was so excited to be able to see it the day after it came out, and then to top it all off I discovered that the time we were planning to see it at Cineworld also had a 4DX option.
Now I've never seen a film in 4DX before, in fact, counting this one, you can count the number of Real D 3D films I've seen on one hand, so this was going to be a bit of an experience for me. Basically, 4DX involves more senses than just sight. Your seat moves, you get scents, puffs of air, bubbles and water. It sounded pretty damn magical, so what better way to see the most magical film of the year?!
I can honestly say, it was worth the extra few quid for the tickets. We were immersed in the action right from the very start.
The film opens with an attack by Grindelwald. It's night and there's smoke, and lo and behold, on either side of the screen smoke starts pumping in. A moment later we're spinning through a host of Wizarding newspaper articles from around the world and we're spinning and swooping right along with them.
It's almost like being on a rollercoaster, particularly as this film is set in New York and there are many sequences where we follow the apparating witches and wizards as they move through the city, or follow the apparent big bad on their course of destruction.
My favourite feature was probably the water though. Although, I'll admit, every time I got squirted I couldn't help but giggle, including in some serious bits where I didn't really want to giggle. There's one but of the film where a rampant Erumpent falls through some ice, sending up a splash of water; a moment later she's teetering on the brink again and you know what's coming. For those who aren't fans of getting wet, there is an option to turn this off on your seat.
The puffs of air also brought the spells to life. During scenes where spells are flying every which way, you actually get little puffs of air on either side of your head as though they're just missing you. It definitely adds to the magic.
But what of the film itself?
Well, I went into it with pretty much no expectations. The only name I knew was Eddie Redmayne and I honestly couldn't tell you anything that I've actually seen him in yet. The others were all pretty much unknown to me too. This was probably a good thing because it meant I quickly lost myself in their characters, rather than thinking 'he's channelling so-and-so here' or 'it's so weird seeing character-from-another-film doing these things'.
Newt Scamander, the hapless Hufflepuff who was expelled from Hogwarts after an 'incident', is visiting New York with his suitcase which puts Hermione's beaded bag to shame. Unfortunately shortly after he arrives he bumps into Jacob Kowalski, switches cases and unwittingly lets loose a host of banned magical creatures into New York City.
Ex-Auror, Tina Goldstein, tries to get the mess cleaned up and winds up with both men back at her flat where she lives with her sister Queenie. Unfortunately for them all, there's something big and scary attacking the city's residents, and Newt's suitcase is going to get the blame.
Perhaps one of my favourite bits in the film is where we get to visit the inside of Newt's fantastical suitcase.
He's got a little mini zoo in there and we get a tour of it. There are creatures in there which fans of the books will recognise, even though they don't play a real part in the story this time around.
In fact, there's lots of little nods all the way through the film which fans of the books will pick up on. Albus Dumbledore gets a mention, we see a Deathly Hallows symbol (which actually proves to be a pretty big clue as to the identity of one of the characters we meet), you can infer just what happened to Ariana Dumbledore to cause her death. Even little things like the duelling wands and the protection spells employed by MACUSA.
I was worried going into this film that it would somehow spoil the original films or be at odds with the book, but it doesn't at all. If anything it enhances what you already know because it's dealing with familiar things in an unfamiliar setting, so when you watch Queenie trying to unlock the door to Graves's office, you're not exactly surprised that her first approach is to use 'Alohomora'.
Plus, because we see things through Newt's eyes, we get to make the discoveries about the American Wizarding World right alongside him. And American Wizards might have a black female president, but they're incredibly backwards on Muggle (or as they say 'No-Maj') and Magical relations; contact with No-Maj's is strictly forbidden and marriage isn't even to be entertained. Arthur Weasley would be horrified.
I'm curious about the direction that the future films will take. I'm hopeful that we might get to see some other countries and learn about how they strive to keep the magical world hidden.
And one final point before I go. See this:
This is a Niffler. And I want one.