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“Fantastic Beasts...” provides hopeful introduction to new series

Though it has a slow start, the new Potter movie becomes a must-see for any fan.   |   static.srcdn.com

 

This past weekend, Potterheads everywhere lined up and filled theater auditoriums for the latest Harry Potter franchise film, “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them.”

Redmayne soldifies his role

Though apart from the original seven books chronicling the adventures of Harry Potter, the film finds basis in J.K. Rowling's book of the same name. A companion to the Potter series, the book serves as a text of sorts, as the title suggests, of fantastic beasts and where they can be found around the world. Despite the book lacking a plot, the film stemmed from Rowling’s story centered around the fictitious author, Newt Scamander, and so “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” was born.

Directed by David Yates, who directed the original Potter films from the fourth onward, and written by Rowling herself, I had high expectations of the movie before seeing it, while remaining skeptical that it would not measure up to the previous movies. But rest assured, fellow Potter fans, the movie does not disappoint.

The movie opens up with Scamander, played by Eddie Redmayne, as he arrives in New York by boat. Through the first scenes with Newt, Redmayne solidifies himself as the perfect cast for the role. Awkward, endearing, and clearly fascinated with all things related to magical creatures, Scamander embodies the spirit of Rebeus Hagrid long before the fan-favorite Keeper of the Keys existed.

Once in New York, Newt gets a glimpse of the vast differences between the American wizarding world and that of his own experience back in England. With a society hell-bent on exposing the witches in the community, mysterious occurrences in the city and a woman eerily reminiscent of Dolores Umbridge, Newt sticks out in his new environment.

 

familiarity without becoming common

Through a series of events beginning with one of the creatures sneaking out of the suitcase Newt carried them in, two other misfits make their introduction. Former Auror Tina, played by Katherine Waterston, now works as a wand registration clerk for the Magical Congress of the United States of America, America’s version of the Ministry of Magic. Kowalski, played by Dan Folger, is an aspiring baker applying for a loan to open a shop.

The first encounter between Newt and Tina translates as awkward, and not in a cute way. It becomes clear that Yates’ new wizarding world contrasts with the one fans have become accustomed to. Tina refers to non-magical people as “No-Maj,” instead of “Muggles.” The reiteration of the phrase when Newt becomes confused by it does not make the term any less clunky or, arguably, dumb. The whole interaction seemed off, raising fears that the rest of the movie would carry the same thread.

Rowling quickly dispelled such doubts, however.

Within a few scenes, the plot gained momentum and the American wizard world gained intrigue. Its changes from the norm no longer translated abruptly but with excitement.

The fantastic beasts the title alludes to make appearances throughout the film, introduced carefully, and not as some fun, new thing for the audience. The story becomes more clear with each character interaction, and a new villain takes shape, allowing Potter fans to learn more of the infamous Grindelwald and his past.

While seeing wands light up with spells being cast, learning of animals that could only be found in the Potter world and being a part of a wizarding adventure, I realized just how much I missed magic.

“Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them” draws viewers in with its familiarity without becoming common, providing a solid foundation for upcoming films in the future.

 

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