Nostalgic Beasts & Where to Find Them

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Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them {film & screenplay}
★★★★☆
Release Date: November 18, 2016

It’s been nearly two decades since I first became a Harry Potter fan – almost twenty years of sleepless nights spent reading and rereading, theories, fanfiction, midnight book releases, midnight movie releases, Ron/Hermione vs. Harry/Hermione, themed parties, memorabilia, message boards, Pottermore, more fanfiction, the view of Hogwarts at Universal Studios, Mugglenet, UK movie premiere livestreams, film sets at Leavesden Studios, and friends with whom bonds were forged because of a mutual love of the fandom.

When Deathly Hallows – Part 2 was released, it felt like a part of my soul had died, like someone had killed one of my horcruxes. It was the end of an era. Although the stories and magic would live on in each of us, we’d reached the end of days. We had to learn to move on.

But then J.K. Rowling pulled a “jk jk (rowling)” on us and gave us Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

There’s a sacred moment at the start of every Harry Potter movie, the moment when “Hedwig’s Theme” plays as the audience floats into the large Warner Brothers logo. Up until that point, I hadn’t been physically or mentally prepared for what was to come. But that opening sequence simultaneously gave me an out-of-body experience and grounded me into the present. We were finally getting another Potterverse film.

Fantastic Beasts is the gift we thought we deserved when we waited in line to pick up a copy of The Cursed Child. It is so clearly a pure J.K. Rowling classic; its story and characters have been brought to life by an author who has the extraordinary talent of building a rich, complex world that we mere mortals would die to live in.

[Minor spoilers below]

The movie introduces the canon of a magical USA and the often-romanced decade of New York City during the Prohibition. J.K. vividly paints us a living mural of this undiscovered part of the wizarding world: wizard life in the city, the government, wizard and muggle relations, the fashion. Goblins run the banks here, too. Gigglewater is a thing.

But, of course, the fantastic beasts are the central stem of the movie. J.K. and the post-production team brought to life so many of the unique creatures we’ve only read and fantasized about. In doing so, the movie was also about the preservation and care of animals and nature. From the hilariously sassy Niffler to the mythical Thunderbird to the Erumpent in heat, these beasts served as a fun, aww-inducing lens into the expansive wizarding world.

Eddie Redmayne plays Newt Scamander brilliantly, making him your new favourite Hufflepuff (RIP Cedric). Shy, unassuming, a little awkward, but always with a heart of gold, you can’t help but fall in love with the magizoologist. Eddie’s talent is obvious in his seemingly effortless ability to live and breathe as Newt in an environment that is 90% CGI.

Alison Sudol as Queenie Goldstein is the shining star in this film. Although Queenie embodies the flirty female archetype, she is not two-dimensional. As a practiced Legilimens, she proves herself to be incredibly intelligent with a mastery of the skill. She isn’t shallow, and at no point does she become a damsel in distress, though her personality type usually falls victim to the trope. In fact, she is the most level-headed and brave of our group of four. We don’t know which Ilvermorny house Queenie was sorted into, but I’d guess she was a Thunderbird. The soul, the adventurer. Queenie is a testament to J.K.’s ability to create whole, three-dimensional characters, regardless of their gender.

The film has the difficult challenge of balancing a number of plotlines, and for some, it proved to be too complex for what could have been a standalone movie. The Grindelwald tie-in did feel a bit strange in the context of Newt’s story. That the two would collide, despite Grindelwald’s rise in America during the time, felt a bit contrived. But there are some theories in play that might explain things. Was Grindelwald obsessed with the obscurus because Ariana was one? What is Dumbledore’s true relationship with Newt? Will Leta Lestrange play a pivotal role to connect the characters? Only time will tell.

I’m looking forward to peeling back the layers on Newt Scamander, to explore his surprising relationship with a Lestrange, to see more beasts. I want to know how powerful families like the Shaws come into play and the unravelling of wizard/muggle relations. I can’t wait for more Queenie. And I hope the five-film franchise gifts us with the Grindelwald and Dumbledore duel to end all duels.

As a fan, I had always hoped that any new material J.K. gave us would be about the Marauders. But Fantastic Beasts manages to fill the hole I’d had in my soul for the last five years (and it helps to blur the memory of The Cursed Child). Perhaps the greatest element of Fantastic Beasts goes beyond the film and the new characters and creatures we’ve been introduced to. What fills my heart with a surge of overwhelming joy is knowing the fandom that shaped my childhood and young adulthood lives on. That there is still more mystery to be discovered, more friendships to be formed, more magic to be experienced.

Did you see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them? Let me know what you thought in the comments below!

3 thoughts on “Nostalgic Beasts & Where to Find Them

    1. Hey Richard, thanks for sharing! Just checked our your review, love the mention of hoping to see even more of the vast world and how magic plays in each of these settings. Very jealous you’re seeing Cursed Child next year – my bit of reserved hope for CC is that it plays out better on stage than in script. Have fun!

      Liked by 1 person

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