Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them will not let Harry Potter fans down
When I first heard about a Harry Potter spin off prequel, I was a bit sceptical about whether any other wizarding fantasy could fill up the wizarding cloaks left behind by Harry and the gang. But little did I know that JK Rowling has some more dazzling magic left for us muggles (or no-maj if you are American). From the get go, this imagination-tickling flick nostalgically took me back to the magical world of wizards and witches with James Newton Howard’s famed title theme and the symbolic silver fonts used in the opening title.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is based on a book, just like all the previous Harry Potter films. However, let me remind you that this is JK Rowling we are talking about here; nothing is ordinary in her world. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, interestingly, is a book within a book; a textbook used by year one students of Hogwarts and written by Newt Scamander; the hero of the movie whose twitchy, soft spoken charms makes all of us viewers fall for him instantly. This movie is Rowling’s first attempt at screenwriting and damn, she is good at it! In contrast to the original Harry Potter kid-centric adventures, this exploration of the magical community across the Atlantic by Rowling is pretty adult appropriate, a tad too much for pre-teen Potterheads.
Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), a Hogwart’s graduate and a British magizoologist arrives in a 1926 New York with a suitcase full of magical and wondrous creatures. (A little fun fact for all you Potter fans: He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was born on the last day of 1926 as well. A mere coincidence perhaps?)
MACUSA, the Magical Congress of the United States of America, the American cousin of the British Ministry of Magic, does not allow the import of wild beasts in the country and Scamander is immediately flagged down by a demoted auror, Porpetina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), for illegal possession of these magical creatures.
However, there is a mix up of suitcases, with a no-maj aspiring pastry chef, Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), letting several of Scamander’s colourful and mischievous beings to escape from his size belying suitcase.
Thus begins the hunt to recapture these unique and beguiling creatures. Nifflers a slapstick thieving platypus, by far, is the most impishly likeable of the lot. The duo is joined by Goldstein and her mind reading sister, Queenie (Alison Sudol), to seek the creatures and ultimately uncover a mysteriously malevolent black force ravaging the streets of the Big Apple.
In the latter instalments of the Harry Potter series, Rowling was never afraid to bring out the veiled murky under side of the world and such is the case with this movie as well. Ghastly murders, capital punishment and animal abuse are just a few of the darker matters which she has successfully blended within the fantasy fuelled narrative. She also successfully managed to incorporate a few moral messages in the movie, such as bravery, friendship and the power of kindness, just like she did in the Harry Potter franchise.
Eddie Redmayne brilliantly portrays Newt Scamander as the awkward wizard, bringing out the quintessential shyness of his soft spoken character by having him whisper all his dialogues and avoiding any direct eye contact during one-on-one conversations.
The eye popping production designs were at par, if not superior to the fantastical sets inhabiting the Potterverse. And cost importantly, the movie had that X factor which elevated it from its contemporaries. JK Rowling’s Midas touch, perhaps?
It will be ridiculous of me to try and predict whether the spin off prequel will be as popular as the original Harry Potter franchise. But if the first instalment of Newt Scamander’s magical exploits is anything to go by, then it is safe to state that this particular series would not let its predecessor down.
All photos: IMDb
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