Honestly? I wished I swapped suitcases with Newt Scamander.
The things I can do with his magical bestiary!
Of course, I’ll need wand work for my charges.
Imagine chasing after a Niffler – that cuddly platypus-like kleptomaniac who stashes shiny things in its bottomless belly pouch.
But even if I get arrested in a bank vault with such a pet, I can escape like Houdini with Pickett the Bowtruckle in my breast pocket.
This twig-like creature, usually found guarding wand-wood trees, show superb lock-picking skills.
Still, it will be foolish to snare an Erumpent in heat – a giant rhino with a red-hot horn that makes anything it pierces explode.
I won’t mind milking a Swooping Evil though. This butterfly-winged reptile hurls himself like a yo-yo and sucks out brains but his venom, properly diluted, wipes out bad memories.
And I’d bond with Frank, the Thunderbird – a cross between a mammoth eagle and a four-winged cherub with the tail of a bird of paradise who creates storms when he flaps.
I can also use the fur of the Demiguise to weave an invisibility cloak. This doleful-eyed, silver-haired orangutan look-alike becomes invisible at will.
And because I travel a lot, an Occamy, a beaked cross between a bird and a serpent, will be a convenient, ultra-portable pet because he’s “choranaptyxic”. He can grow or shrink to fit available space.
If I want to fend off curses and jinxes, I’ll take a Murtlap, that bald, rat-like creature with an anemone like spiny growth on its back.
Newt kept so many exotics – the sapphire-blue Billywig, a beetle-like insect with a long stinger and wings on its head that allow it to spin as it flies, Mooncalves – with big, round eyes on the tops of their heads who leave intricate patterns in wheat fields during moonlit mating dances, Graphorns – carnivores with grayish-purple hides and multiple, long, pointed horns.
Still, I was disappointed they didn’t show the keystone species of enchanted beasts, megastar of all magical menageries – dragons.
Heaven forbid, J.K. Rowling, the “Harry Potter” book author debuting as scriptwriter in this film, reserves the dragons for Sequel Number Five?
One thing’s sure. She has confirmed she will make a handful – maybe more.
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” takes the audience to 1920’s New York, half a world away from Hogwart’s School of Magic and 80 years before Harry Potter makes his entrance.
Newton Artemis Fido “Newt” Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), a true-blue Brit Magizoologist, wants to return Frank, the Thunderbird he rescued from illegal magical beast traffickers in Egypt, to its native Arizona.
The story happened before he wrote the textbook that would someday be required reading at his alma mater, Hogwarts.
He arrives in the midst of high tension between No-Majs (American for Muggles) and the Big Apple’s wizards. An unknown magical thing was wreaking havoc on the streets and dark wizard, Gellert Grindelwald, was on the loose.
Newt stashed his magical creatures in his rattling leather suitcase. Disaster strikes when his luggage gets swapped with the case of sample pastries of aspiring No-Maj baker Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) and the mischievous beasts get unleashed in the city.
It was a serious breach of the Statute of Secrecy that former Auror, Porpentina “Tina” Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), jumps on. Recently demoted to wand registration, she grabs the chance to regain her post as an investigator.
Events take an ominous turn when Percival Graves (Colin Farrell), the enigmatic Director of Magical Security at MACUSA (Magical Congress of the United States of America), suspects both Newt and Tina.
Now branded as fugitives, Newt and Tina join forces with the latter’s slinky sister, Queenie – a mind reader who has never met a Muggle, and portly but charming Jacob.
The quartet becomes a band of unlikely heroes who must recover Newt’s missing beasts before the MACUSA slaughters them. This puts them on collision course with dark forces pushing the wizarding world and the non-magical one at war.
While the setting and the characters are different from “Harry Potter” the conflict is the same, if not more complicated.
“At the core of this film is the fear of things we don’t understand and how people react by taking extremes,” explained Eddie Redmayne.
“It’s why wizards are hiding in New York, why there’s no interaction between them and the Muggles, why they want to destroy magical beasts, who might reveal the existence of magic.”
Enchanted they maybe, the animals have no way of knowing their very being presents a threat, Rowling stressed.
“The beasts don’t understand they’re supposed to hide. Newt was the lone voice saying, ‘We shouldn’t exterminate these creatures,’ which was the standard practice to maintain secrecy.”
Newt accepts the beasts on their own terms. He’s an exceptionally broadminded wizard who understands those who are stigmatized, constantly questioning why certain life forms are considered more important than others.
Challenging the status quo, “Newt believes that with proper education, wizards could come to appreciate how magnificent these animals are and learn to coexist with them,” the star actor added.
Odd that a prologue focused on goofy magical animals let loose on a non-magical mankind would be more viscerally intense and political than the epic “Harry Potter”, tackling themes such as xenophobia, inequality, authoritarianism and oppression.
And it’s just the beginning of a series.
Each of the five Fantastic Beasts movies will take place in a different major city, expanding the wizarding world into all corners of the planet, Rowling herself hinted.
Hogwart’s Headmaster Albus Dumbledore will come up in the sequels too, she confirmed. “You’ll see him as a younger man and quite a troubled man in the formative period of his life. As far as his sexuality is concerned: Watch this space.”
Enough loose ends have been left out in this first part.
What will be the new life and challenges for Newt’s Thunderbird in Arizona?
What happens to that fragment of “obscurial” – the malevolent black haze from a child’s repressed wizardly powers – that “got away” in the end? Can it still re-assemble itself to mop up “unfinished business”?
And will Grindelwald stage another grand escape? He vowed the wizard prison can never hold him for long when they arrested him and the MACUSA President acknowledged they can’t keep him behind bars for good.
Of course, at least two love stories dangled at the end of the first saga.
Queenie and Jacob, drawn to each other before the Obscurial crisis, are still attracted to one another afterwards, although Jacob’s memory of their earlier encounter had been wiped out.
Needless to say, everyone who read the books knows that Newt and Tina will marry. Then their grandson, Rolf, will marry Luna Lovegood – Harry’s loony friend in the last three Harry Potter novels.
Maybe the dragons will fly in between or just before all the sagas end?