By Alina Afzal Qureshy
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” watered my crops, cleared my skin, and paid all my bills.
This prequel to the Harry Potter series somehow managed to recapture the magic of the original series, even though it was took place more than half a century before Harry’s time at Hogwarts and was set on a completely different continent.
Newt Scamander, a magizoologist and former Hufflepuff, arrives in New York in 1926 en route to Arizona to release Frank, a thunderbird that Newt rescued and who resides in his magical suitcase. Through a series of mishaps (including but not limited to: a Niffler, the leader of an anti-wizards group, and an Occamy egg) Newt accidentally switches his magical suitcase with that of a No-Maj, Jacob Kowalski, who is trying to get a loan to open his own bakery. When Jacob opens Newt’s suitcase, a few of the magical creatures inside escape into the city.
Through the course of the movie, Newt, along with Tina and Queenie Goldstein (sisters and MACUSA employees) and Jacob Kowalski, race to find Newt’s creatures and discover who or what is behind the magical attacks that are killing No-Majs and wizards alike, before Seraphine Piquery, president of MACUSA, and her mysterious Head of Magical Law Enforcement, Percival Graves, can arrest Newt on the suspicion that he and his creatures are behind the magical attacks. The four also face threats from Mary Lou Barebone, the leader of an anti-wizard group called the New Salem Philanthropic Society, and her adopted son Credence Barebone.
This movie was both bright and dark, both cheerful and frightening. It made my face hurt from smiling, but at some parts I was on the edge of my seat, wondering what the characters would do next. I loved Eddie Redmayne’s portrayal of Newt as a kind man who loved his creatures more than he did other people, who wouldn’t hesitate to do whatever it took to protect both the animals in his briefcase and the people he cared about.
I especially loved Queenie Goldstein, a beautiful witch who loved all things feminine, who was also an extremely skilled Legilimens (mind-reader). Her bond with her sister, Tina, was also really great. It was obvious to me that the two would do anything for each other. And I loved Ezra Miller’s portrayal of Credence Barebone. Partly because, duh, Ezra Miller is gorgeous. But he also made me really feel for Credence, and I wanted to know more about him. Even when Credence was (SPOILER ALERT) revealed as the Obscurial, the host of a dark, parasitic force that manifests when wizard children suppress their powers, who was behind the magical attacks, I was rooting for his survival and rehabilitation.
However, I’m not all that fond of Johnny Depp’s casting as Gellert Grindelwald, a dark wizard almost as bad as Voldemort, who (SPOILER ALERT) appeared at the end of the movie, revealed to be masquerading as Percival Graves. To me, Depp’s depiction just didn’t fit J.K. Rowling’s description of Grindelwald as someone with an “attractive, winsome personality” and a “merry, wild disposition”.
But despite Depp’s casting as Grindelwald, I still really loved this movie, and await the next four with bated breath; 2018 can’t come fast enough!