‘Fantastic Beasts’ a magical reintroduction to the wizarding world

Category:  The Arts
Wednesday, November 30th, 2016 at 5:46 PM
‘Fantastic Beasts’ a magical reintroduction to the wizarding world by Anna Ashcraft

Harry Potter fans are ecstatic this week as the newest movie in the series — “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” — has been released after a long, five-year wait.

The end of the initial era was previously mourned in the form of hundreds of re-runs of the “Harry Potter” films and dedicated fan sites (as well as Edinboro’s own annual Potterfest), but it’s far from over. With 2016 already a great year for Potter fans — highlighted by the release of J.K. Rowling’s play, “The Cursed Child” — we’re now treated to her screenwriting debut and the prelude movie to the “Harry Potter” story.

“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” is set in the 1920s, during the era of young Grindelwald’s reign of terror. It takes place 70 years before Harry Potter’s story.

The original book, written by Rowling, is just an anthropological guide to the all the magical creatures in the world; classifying them by level of danger, and defining characteristics of each, documented by protagonist Newt Scamander himself. The movie has its own, extended plot and is centered in New York City.

The inner workings of the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA), American wizarding communities, and President Seraphina Picquery (Carmen Ejogo) are all revealed.

In the film, Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is a magical anthropologist, or “magizoologist,” who works for the ministry of magic. He travels around the world, documenting and saving magical creatures. He is trying to plant the seed in the heads of the wizarding community that not all magical creatures are dangerous. He feels they need to be saved rather than hunted.

Redmayne’s character is awkwardly shy, yet camera friendly. His character is interesting and mysterious and one never really finds out everything about him. He is an introverted type with an adventurous side to him that most anthropologists have.

The movie begins with Scamander crossing customs into New York City with little hands sticking out of his bag, as the trailer depicts. He soon runs into Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), a MACUSA worker and former Auror who tries to arrest Scamander for having undocumented magical creatures in the city. Things get a little sticky and don’t quite go as planned when some of Scamander’s magical creatures are let loose all over the city by Jacob Kowalski (Dan Folger) the muggle, or “No-Maj,” as the Americans call them. Kowalski’s character creates comic relief across the entire story, especially when he sees magic for the first couple times. 

Tina is just as awkward on camera as Scamander, yet they work great together. They have similar mannerisms and good chemistry, which feeds the romantic tension between them.

Tina’s sister Queenie (Alison Sudol) plays a flirtatious, accomplished Legilimens, or someone who can read minds. She finds it difficult not to read everyone’s mind and the main characters don’t tend to like it. The girls get caught up with the mess that Kowalski and Scamander have found themselves in.

Queenie brings a bright, bubbly personality to the group. She takes all the attention away from her sister, leaving Tina in the background. She adds that dynamic, adventurous spirit to the group that almost matches Newts and makes up for Tina’s calculated moves and Kowalski’s clumsy No-Maj actions.

Percival Graves (Colin Farrell) is the Director of Magical Security and is in charge of the search to find the magical creatures responsible for tearing up New York City. Scamander, however, is convinced this is not one of his creatures doing the majority of the damage, but some other terror stalking the city.

With plenty of action and nostalgia throughout, the movie is absolutely a blast from the past in every way. For those of us who grew up with the books and movies, the new film did a great job foreshadowing people and places that we know and love. Like Star Wars accomplished with “The Force Awakens,” people need to be reminded that all these people and places connect in some way with the original stories.

“Fantastic Beasts” features a time when magic was used more openly, with mentions of famous Harry Potter characters like Grindelwald and Dumbledore and places like Hogwarts. We also hear a brief mention of the North American Wizarding School, Ilvermorny, previously introduced by Rowling on the Pottermore website.

The movie has a very different tone than the original Harry Potter films, making it fresh and interesting. It brings a whole new story to one we previously thought we knew and leaves us guessing as to what will come next. 

Anna Ashcraft is a Managing Editor of Arts for The Spectator.

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