Note: Fellow writer for Bookstacked, Ally, has also contributed to this article by sharing her thoughts with us. Fair warning that this movie review will have MINOR, if any, spoilers.
It’s finally here. The return of Wizarding World has returned to the big screen. Yesterday evening, I went to see an early screening of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and it was magical (total pun intended.)
We start off by seeing newspaper headlines of Gellert Grindelwald and his worrisome actions across the International Wizarding Community. This scene leads to the audience seeing Newt Scamander arriving to New York City in 1926 and a certain creature trying to escape his magical suitcase. We are quickly introduced to characters such as Tina and her sister Queenie, Credence, Graves, and Jacob Kowalski the No-Maj who just wants to open a bakery.
Ally: The set up with the newspapers at the beginning was epic. It really set the scene and brought us back into the wizarding world with the moving images, familiar names and the music.
Something that fans were hoping to see more of was exploring further more into the Wizarding World. As we know from the Harry Potter books and films, the Ministry of Magic regulates magical activity (both human and beast) in Britain and in the film we are introduced to its American counterpart, MACUSA (Magical Congress of the United States of America).
Eddie Redmayne is our protagonist, Newt Scamander and because we don’t know much about him, this left Eddie with the chance to make the character his own and he did. His portrayal of Newt shows us that the he is a slightly awkward, lonely, but caring and compassionate of both his friends and his creatures. As the film progresses, we slightly learn bits and pieces about Newt’s background, such as why he was expelled from Hogwarts and Dumbledore arguing for him against his expulsion and the fact that Newt had a brother who was a war hero in the magical world.
Ally: Eddie as Newt was awesome, he’s not your usual protagonist and he did a great job. I’ve seen a few people comment that they couldn’t understand what Newt was saying a lot of the time. I had this problem a little bit but not as much as some people are saying. I think it probably was a combination of Eddie’s accent (which isn’t super crisp), and his acting as the more introverted Newt.
Dan Fogler plays Jacob Kowalski, a No-Maj (American term for Muggle) who accidentally bumps into Newt at the bank, leading him into a journey of a lifetime. While Jacob does provide some comic relief, he doesn’t play a dumb character or someone who is there just for laugh. He genuinely takes in what is happening around him and soon after getting over the shock of realizing the magical world around him, he takes a “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” attitude about the entire thing, especially after meeting Queenie.
Alison Sudol takes the role of Queenie, who is not only Tina’s sister but is also a very accomplished Legilimens (someone who has the magical skill of extracting feelings and memories from another person’s mind) which enables her to have an instant connection with Jacob but also allows her to know when people close to her are in danger or need help.
Katherine Waterstone plays Porpentina “Tina” Goldstein, Queenie’s older sister and a former Auror in MACUSA. Her role starts off as the one who is the serious, voice of reason and who follows the rules and is trying to do whatever she can to get her previous job back as an Aurors, including turning in Newt as an “unregistered foreign wizard” to MACUSA. As the movie progresses, she realizes how her willingness to regain her job hurts Newt and his magical creatures, how he is being used as a scapegoat and changes her attitude towards Newt. And towards the end of the film, we see her relationship with Newt change from being a skeptical one to having a better, if not, closer relationship.
In the film, we’re introduced to a new form of dark magic, an Obscurial, that can lash out and cause great damage to those unlucky enough to be in it’s path. The Obscurial is something that ties Ezra Miller’s character, Credence Barebone and his family with Percival Graves, portrayed by Colin Farrell, who is a highly skilled, high ranking Auror and Director of Magical Security at MACUSA.
Ally: Ezra Miller as Credence was amazing. I know he’s a huge fan and you could tell how much he cared and he put so much effort into it.
The cinematography of this film was amazing! One of my favorite things about the Harry Potter films and in Fantastic Beasts is how seamlessly all the CGI, green-screen effects and actual sets blend together on screen. One of the best examples has to be the scenes which take place in Newt’s suitcase. The landscape in those scenes are constantly changing but they mesh so well, it feels so real, it makes you want to go there and interact with all the magical beasts Newt has stored in there. It’s in these scenes that we get a full understanding of why Newt went to New York in the first place and a better look at the depth of his knowledge and affection for his creatures, like Pickett the Bowtruckle, the Niffler and Frank the Thunderbird.
Ally: There were a lot of close up, facing the camera shots of the characters throughout the film which was great because you get to see each character’s reaction to events. I also liked the shot of Newt at the start that panned in from above. And the inside of the suitcase was great. CGI was mixed smoothly with the rest of the set/actors throughout the film. And I really liked how the colour of the beasts (particularly the flying blue insect, a Billywig) contrasted with the rather bland colour palate of New York.
The news of Johnny Depp joining the Fantastic Beasts cast was a very surprising bit of information to fans, even more so when it was announced he would be playing the Dark Wizard, Gellert Grindelwald. While we don’t see much of him, he does make an impact on the audience. Whether that impact is good or bad, is up to the viewers themselves.
Another (very) late cast addition announcement was Zoe Kravitz, (who we know as Christina from the Divergent film series). Fans weren’t given much, if any, information on who she would play in Fantastic Beasts. This is one of those blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moments in the film but I have a feeling that we’ll be learning, if not seeing, more of her in the following sequels. But all we know for know is that the character is called Leta Lestrange, who at some point in Newt’s past was someone close to him.
One thing fans of J.K. Rowlings’ Wizarding World should keep an eye out for are the easter eggs/clues hidden throughout the film. Some might be easier to spot than others, but like they say, it’s all in the details. A few of these have been mentioned in the trailers and by the cast themselves and are said not seen. I won’t say what big easter egg is seen in the movie, but I will say that my favorite is the incorporation of parts of the original Harry Potter theme song included in the Fantastic Beasts’ theme song.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is now out in theaters everywhere, so make sure you get your tickets and head back into J.K. Rowling’s magical Wizarding World!