The camera zooms into the well-known Warner Brothers logo. A song begins quietly. A wave of nostalgia washes over the hearts of those who grew up with the original magic. Newcomers to the world of magic wonder why on Earth everyone else is already crying.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them pulled on the heart strings of millions within the first minute of the movie, using the classical Harry Potter franchise font and the beginning notes of “Hedwig’s Theme” to remind hardcore fans where they came from and show new fans where they’re headed. Soon after the intense opening scene, the audience is introduced to the main character of the next 123 minutes of their life.
Meet Newton “Newt” Artemis Fido Scamander: Hufflepuff alumnus from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, writer of the textbook “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” and magical creature “mommy.” The first glimpses of Newt, portrayed by the wondrously talented and wisely casted Eddie Redmayne, clearly depict his awkward nature, and sweet soul.
After a few minutes, I was entirely convinced Redmayne was born to play the role of Newt. From his floppy reddish brown hair, puppy-dog eyes and innocent smile, right down to the awkward stance and curious nature, Redmayne portrays every part of Newt the audience loves to adore.
Decades before the timeline of the original Harry Potter story, the story begins with Newt’s arrival in New York, and follows him through the city as he shepherds his beloved creatures back into his magical cases when an unknowing No-Maj (the American equivalent of a Muggle) opens the mysterious, shaking case.
Along the way, Newt meets Porpentina “Tina” Goldstein and Queenie Goldstein, sisters and employees of the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA), who help him and Jacob Kowalski, the No-Maj, round up Newt’s escaped creatures and save the city.
From the perspective of an enamored fan, the movie captured my heart with the new element of magic it offered—magical creatures as opposed to charms and spells. Taken right from Newt’s textbook, the movie introduces the adorable Bowtruckle, the sneaky Niffler, and the dreadful Obscurus, which is more of a parasite than a creature, among others.
In the midst of the light-hearted scavenger hunt, a young man named Credence Barebone (played by Ezra Miller) secretly suffers an abused mother, Mary Lou Barebone, who oppresses and abuses him in more ways than one. To what he believes is his rescue, Percival Graves, Auror and head of MACUSA’s Department of Magical Law Enforcement, promises to set him free in exchange for the capture of the child who Graves believes holds great power.
The contrast of the two storylines creates a sense of suspense that builds up as the stories begin to merge into a larger, action-packed and emotional storyline. All the while, the audience continues to fall in love with Newt, Jacob, Tina and Queenie as they grow to hate Graves and Mary Lou for the ways they abuse Credence into conforming to their ideals and selfish needs.
Aside from the captivating storyline, the cinematography, design, and creatures make the movie worth another watch to simply enjoy the elegance and wonders.
Set in 1920’s New York City, the construction of the famous city and the scandalous atmosphere of speakeasies is not lost in the magic. Most notable features of the Roaring Twenties include Tina and Queenie clad in sparkly black and pale pink dresses, respectively, and jazz singer Emmi’s musical appearance in The Blind Pig, the underground magical speakeasy.
Finally seeing the creatures that were so often spoken of in the original series was by far the most glorious part. Each creature is beautifully animated with rich colors and unique personalities that captured the hearts of the audience.
A personal favorite was the tiny, plant-like Bowtrucle with attachment issues name Pickett. Pickett, though hardly seen due to how small he is and how he remains hidden in Newt’s coat pocket, was the surprisingly sassy sidekick who had no intentions of leaving Newt’s side even if it meant the other Bowtruckles in Newt’s possession would accuse him of favoritism.
Among my favorite scenes—the list includes Newt’s very first appearance, any scene where Pickett defies Newt, and Queenie showing their brains to her beauty—is Newt taking Jacob into his magical suitcase where, after jokingly scaring Jacob with the Swooping Evil he has well-trained, he introduces the No-Maj to all of the wondrous, diverse creatures he has rescued in his time traveling.
“I ain’t got the brains to make this up,” and the audience finds themselves agreeing with Jacob as they marvel at the seemingly never-ending creativity J.K. Rowling possesses. While the creatures pull in the audience, it is the tenderness Redmayne brings to Newt’s character—the creatures’ “mommy”—which truly captures their hearts and gets them to fall in love with even the ugliest of creatures (no offense to the Erumpet which resembles something along the lines of a rhinoceros on steroids).
Fantastic Beasts deserved the praise it has received. It is not the action-packed world Harry Potter lives in, but it offers a new world for new and old fans to love without depending on prior knowledge of the wizarding world. It is another genius creation of Rowling’s imagination, and a possible contender for favorite movie of the Harry Potter franchise—its only competitor is Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix which is number one for its storyline, action and the amount of screen time the Weasley twins and their pranks received.
If only it was possible for Muggles (or No-Majs) to use magic to ‘oblivate’ the memory of seeing the movie and watch it for the first time all over again. However, with questions left unanswered at the end of Fantastic Beasts and confirmations of a sequel in the works, Potterheads won’t need to wait very long for the next awe-inspiring experience from the talented mind of J.K. Rowling.