Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: A Re-Entrance to the Magical World of Harry Potter
January 28, 2017
After a six-year Harry Potter deficit since the last Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter fans were rewarded with a new addition to the Magical Universe, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, plus its four future installations. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them once again captures and delivers the magical Harry Potter experience. Fans and moviegoers will feel the captivation of magic as they watch the film, which for Manhasset viewers takes place in familiar territory, New York City.
Fantastic Beasts begins as Newt Scamander arrives at Ellis Island, seventy years before Harry Potter’s time. As he ventures through the diverse New York City and passes by a woman speaking to a crowd about the presence of evil witches, Newt realizes that something escapes from his briefcase: a magical beast. Showing off his magic and Apparation in plain sight of a Muggle, or a No-Maj in the American dialect, Newt is able to capture his beast while also entangling himself in the magical legislation of America. Bringing himself to the attention of Porpentina, a magical officer, Newt is taken to the Magical Congress of America. However, as the magical government is busy with affairs about the nefarious wizard Grindelwald, they are not concerned with Tina’s suspect. One of most high-ranked Aurors, Percival Graves, is in search of a beast, called an Obscurus, which takes the form of a child. He is taken in my Tina, and meets her Legilimens sister, Queenie. Newt soon realizes that a few of his own beasts had escaped, so he, Tina, Queenie, and the No-Maj, Jacob Kowalski, go on a magical law-breaking, dangerous adventure to capture all of his beasts. The audience journeys through Newt’s briefcase, his past, his eclectic mating techniques, his extensive knowledge of magical beasts and his great passion for them, and more, to once again be a part of the world of magic. Newt is a magizoologist and a lover of magical beasts, and he hopes to write a book about them to expand knowledge and awareness of their presence and mistreatment. Porpentina learns more about Newt and becomes closer to him, but her primary loyalty is to the Magical Congress, which again entangles them into a worse situation, almost losing her ability to do magic. At the same time, Graves searches for the Obscurus, and comes across a surprise as the Squib he betrays, Credence, turns out to be the beast. Escaping from arrest, Newt, Tina, Queenie, and Jacob help save the Obscurus without destroying New York City or killing the child, and help the Magical Congress capture and arrest Grindelwald, who assumed the alias of a high-ranked magical officer. Newt, Tina, Queenie, and Jacob are recognized for their heroism, but not without exposing magic to all of New York. Fortunately, Newt had a solution: use his beasts to pour a poultice over the city. However, one of the Magical regulations is that no humans could know about the magical world, so the four friends say their goodbyes to Jacob, who magically forgets about Newt, Tina, and Queenie. Before leaving, Newt gives Jacob a briefcase of gold to allow him to follow his dream, which was to open a bakery. Before heading to the ship back to England, Newt expresses his happiness for his friendship to Tina, and promises to send her a copy of the book.
Though Fantastic Beasts takes place decades before Harry Potter’s time, there were many clear references to excite the Harry Potter fans. The most obvious reference was to the textbook, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, by Newt Scamander, that Harry Potter was assigned to read in his first-year, although students do not take Care of Magical Creatures until their third year. Hogwarts was mentioned several times, such as when Newt exclaimed that Hogwarts was the best magical school in the world, disputing the comment made by Queenie that Ilvermorny, the American school of witchcraft and wizardry, was the best magical school in the world. Newt mentions Dumbledore and McGonagall throughout the movie. Going in greater depth, when Tina was taken by the Magical Congress to remove her powers, a wand was put to her head to remove her memories, a reference to the Pensieve used by Harry Potter to see into the pasts of Dumbledore, Barty Crouch Jr., and Severus Snape. When Percival Graves thought he had found the Obscurus and called Credence a Squib, a reference to the name used to describe Argus Filch and, supposedly, Ariana Dumbledore. The Obscurials, like Credence, were young witches and wizards who lose their control over their magical powers and become incredibly powerful; this may fit the description of Ariana Dumbledore, who stopped practicing magic and was driven mad. Newt offers the goblin a Lunascope, which refers to the moon-reading devices mentioned in several Harry Potter books, one which was kept in Dumbledore’s office. Mary-Lou, the eloquent head of the anti-witches group, asked Newt if he was a seeker after truth, after seeing him in the crowd of one of her speeches. Newt said that he was more of a chaser, referring to the positions in Quidditch. Throughout the movie, Newt sports a yellow and black scarf, referring to the colors of Hufflepuff, of which he is a proud graduate. In the background of one of the scenes, a “Transfiguration Today” newspaper featured in large print a new contributor, Albus Dumbledore. This refers to Dumbledore’s academic speciality, as he was a Transfiguration professor before becoming headmaster of Hogwarts. While using her Legilimens, Queenie found about Newt’s his school-crush, Leta Lestrange, referring to the Lestrange family. She is not directly related to Bellatrix, who married into the family. It brought an emotional aspect of Newt to the film. Queenie’s Legilimens is also a reference to Harry’s attempt to learn it and Voldemort’s ability as well. Jacob Kowalski’s initials is a reference to J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series. One of the escaped beasts was a Demiguise, an invisible creature, whose fur is used to create the Invisibility Cloak. Finally, in one of the first scenes, a newspaper advertisement was displayed about Fleamont Potter’s Hair Potion, whose lucrative business is the reason for Harry’s wealth in Gringotts.
While researching about Newt Scamander, I came across a whole history of Scamander. First, although he loved Leta Lestrange, he ultimately fell in love with and married Tina. They had a child, and his grandson married Luna Lovegood. While at Hogwarts, he and Leta had an interest in magical beasts. In one of Leta’s experiments, a beast endangered the life of a student. Newt took the blame and was expelled, but Dumbledore argued strongly on his behalf to the headmaster at the time, and cleared his name. Scamander was able to work for the Ministry of Magic, a privilege argued that Hagrid, also expelled for an incident with beasts was not able to receive. Newton, Newt’s full name, refers to Isaac Newton, who was known for his contributions to mathematics and physics and his works on alchemy. Some of his writing suggested that he was going to create a Philosopher’s Stone, inspired by Nicolas Flamel, which would make one immortal, which refers to the first Harry Potter book. For Scamander’s success in book sales for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, he had become well-known, and has the honor of being on a Chocolate Frog Card.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was led by renowned actor Eddie Redmayne (Newt Scamander), along with Katherine Waterson (Porpentina Goldstein), Colin Farrell (Percival Graves), Ezra Miller (Credence Barebone), Alison Sudol (Queenie Goldstein), and Dan Fogler (Jacob Kowalski). The film had cameos by two other well-known actors, Zoë Kravitz (Leta Lestrange) and Johnny Depp (Grindelwald), who will play major roles in the series. One of the film’s biggest disappointments was the deletion of a specific scene with Eddie Redmayne, who had worked out extensively for nine months for the scene. He was to be shirtless, showing off all his scars from beasts, while also displaying peak physical shape from working with the beasts. Unfortunately, the scene was cut. Eddie Redmayne had previously auditioned for the role of Tom Riddle in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, but was turned down after reading one line. Instead, the role went to Christian Coulson. However, Eddie Redmayne was specifically chosen by J.K. Rowling to play Newt for the film, without an audition. Eddie had just failed his audition for the role of Kylo Ren in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, so he excitedly took the role of Newt Scamander. For several of the cast members, they were required to attend “wand school” in order to learn how to properly hold and wave a wand. J.K. Rowling had wrote the book, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, in 2001 to raise money for the charity, Comic Relief, with 80% of the book sales going to the charity. In the scene introducing Queenie, she was dressed similarly to the attention-seeking Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire. Her love interest, Kowalski, is also the name of Blanche’s love interest in A Streetcar Named Desire, played by Marlon Brando. On IMDb.com, several actors of Fantastic Beasts became the top five most-viewed celebrities, a trend that occurs after popular movies are released in theaters. For example, Alison Sudol, the actress who played Queenie, took the first spot as most-viewed celebrity.
Critics were generally favorable towards Fantastic Beasts, commenting on its ability to draw on Harry Potter’s rich mythology to continue an effective spinoff, and appeal to the audience’s inner kid. They called it richly detailed, probably referring to J.K. Rowling’s many connections between books. The greatest aspect of the film was its magical feeling that it elicited in viewers.
Like the critics, I agree that Fantastic Beasts appealed to my Harry Potter fanaticism. The film has deeper meaning as well, drawing parallels to animal rights, child abuse, social relationships, race relations, and feminism. First, Newt Scamander was one of the few wizards who truly cared for the magical beasts, and he devoted his life to protecting them because he knew that they were being hunted by people such as traders, merchants, and hunters. By writing his popular book, Scamander was able to save the lives of countless creatures because he had brought attention upon them. Similarly, in our society, there are certain groups of people who hunt animals for sport or for superficial benefit. Scamander is an animal-lover, representing today’s few animal lovers. In the United States, such immoral practices such as captivating sea animals and forcing them to learn tricks to entertain an audience in Sea World continue, but should be stopped. Animals, like magical beasts, are meant to roam free in the wild, without fear of being killed by menacing, meddling humans. Moving on, child abuse is a subject of concern in the film. Clearly, Credence was extremely troubled, as he was regularly beat by his mother, Mary Lou, for minor actions such as coming home slightly late. He was an obedient child, and protected his sister, so he was abused by his mother, and eventually protected by Tina. Gradually, Credence showed greater signs of internal trouble and eventually manifested into the Obscurus, a dangerous creature. While this was part of the storyline, the problem of child abuse is outlined and demonstrates the problem of child abuse in society, and how it negatively impacts children when they grow up. Next, social relationships are displayed in the movie. Evidently, Newt Scamander was a shy, introverted person. He never looked anyone in the eye, but rather liked to keep to himself and his magical beast-friends. This was an aspect of his appearance I found significant because it accurately portrayed real people in society. Unlike the people in most films, not everyone is wild and extroverted. Having a shy Newt Scamander was appealing in its uniqueness. Next, race relations was exhibited as viewers saw the tensions between No-Majs and wizards. People such as Mary Lou were against witches and wizards, speaking against them. She was likely scared of them and their power. On the other side, wizards were not happy with humans such as Mary-Lou, and some people in the wizardly world even wanted to overpower the No-Majs and rule them. This is similar to society, as race relations can develop tensions as people get scared of another group and generalize group characteristics. This is not moral because people are all different, and cannot be all generalized. Not all magical people are dangerous or evil, for example, and not all people of a certain race are dangerous. Finally, this film relates to feminism with the strong roles of Tina, Queenie, and the head of the Magical Congress. Tina displays the struggle of the modern woman, unable to garner the attention of others, and mistaken as someone who doesn’t know what she is doing. However, she helps Newt along with his journey, and becomes an indispensible character of fortitude and strength in the film. Queenie is seen as a confident, daring woman, similar in strength to Tina but in an alluring and feminine way, showing the meaning of feminism with a combination of feminine and feminist. The head of the Magical Congress, Madame President, is also a woman and is the most powerful witch of the government. This high position of power is rare for a woman, especially in the early 1900s time period where the film is set, considering not even today have we had a a woman president. Finally, the movie had vivid, exciting visuals, finally allowing readers to understand what the beast of the Crumple-Horned Snorkack looks like, and the embarrassing yet endearing mating dance to attract it, by Newt Scamander.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a fast-paced film that brings viewers and fans back into the magical world of Harry Potter, with familiar stars such as Eddie Redmayne and Johnny Depp. Audiences will find deeper meaning rooted into the story, like all of J.K. Rowling’s works, such as societal patterns and issues that continue today. J.K. Rowling has demonstrated an incredibly remarkable talent in her screenwriting debut, and will continue to satisfy and thrill viewers for years to come about the magical world, fabricated from her creative mind. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them has been nominated for two Oscars at the 89th Academy Awards and Best Production Design and Best Costume Design. The sequel is set to be released in November 2018.