18th November 2016. 5:30pm
**MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD. PROCEED WITH CAUTION.
J.K. Rowling is a genius. Pure, pure genius. Because just when you thought this is going to be one of those overrated, overhyped, second-rate movies for marketing’s sake, the woman behind the Wizarding World of Harry Potter once again proved everyone wrong. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was, well, fantastic.
Actually, no. Fantastic isn’t enough word to describe this film. You can say, “but you’re a Potterhead, of course you’d like the movie,” see the thing is, I was holding my breath prior to watching this movie even though I was really excited to see it. Fortunately, I threw all expectations out of the window before entering the theater. I didn’t reread or re-watch the Harry Potter books or movies, nor did I bother checking the textbook again.
Like I said, Rowling was a genius. How exactly? Let me explain it a bit to you before we apparate to New York and discuss Newt. (**For the sake of saving you time and energy, I won’t be talking about all the Harry Potter Easter Eggs that we’ve seen in the film that all other websites have told you. Instead, I will be sharing a couple more that they seemed to miss)
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a text book that Hogwarts students used in their Care for Magical Creatures subject in the Potterverse. It was written by Newt Scamander and was mentioned several times in the books and movies. A couple of years after a couple of movies were released, J. K. Rowling was offered to publish this infamous text book, along with Quidditch Through the Ages, as part of Comic Relief. A couple of years more after its publication, Warner Bros. offered a movie deal, and this is where the genius part starts.
Sure, you can say it was a ploy so the Potterverse will rake money and popularity again, but what’s fantastic (heh!) about this is how it was executed. When the ‘Fantastic Beasts’ movie came out in theaters, they also published the original screenplay the same day. Still don’t get it? Read my online lips: the chances of people having preconceived notions about the story will be slim, since they don’t have a story to base their judgment on. In this newly released movie, both Potterheads, skeptics and new fans will see a brand new story without feeling betrayed or robbed when their favorite scene in the book was not included. Plus, add the fact that J.K. Rowling wrote the screenplay herself only makes Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them yet another successful franchise.
And it doesn’t stop there, because they also decided to release the original screenplay on the day its movie counterpart was released in theaters. This means that the chance of having the book being purchased is bigger because those who loved the movie so much might want to relive the magic by page in case they don’t have sufficient funds to pay for multiple movie tickets. Yes, it leads back to raking money, but you can’t deny the fact that it was a great marketing strategy.
But all biased aside, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them deserves the recognition. Some people may find its story lame compared to its predecessor, but as a Potterhead, I immensely enjoyed it. From the moment they played that familiar Hedwig theme up to when the end credits started rolling, ‘Fantastic Beasts’ never fails. It really did feel as if I was apparated back into the world I knew and loved. It was actually in this film that I realized how much I love magic, even though I didn’t get to see Harry and his friends, nor did I hear about what silly things the Weasley twins did before “we became I.” I fell deeply in love with Newt Scamander and his awkwardness, and found my heart breaking every time Porpentina “Tina” Goldstein cries. And how can anyone resist Queenie Goldstein’s charm and her rapport with Jacob Kowalski? I’m actually more interested to hear that a fellow Potterhead hated the movie than how the rest of us probably feels.
Story-wise, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is much, much darker than Harry Potter. Even though we did get a Hogwarts and Professor Dumbledore shout out (who is, SPOILER ALERT, not the Headmaster yet), there was no troll on the loose or Lord Voldemort hiding in Professor Quirrel’s turban in this. Yes, it was set in the same universe as Harry Potter, but this is more for the older audience. Sure, there’s still the abusive adoptive parents that we got to see in Harry Potter, but the story goes beyond the boy who lived. This time, both the wizards and muggles, or as they call people with no-magic in America, “No-Maj”, are in danger not by He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, but by another wizard who’s also fascinated with the Dark Arts, Gellert Grindelwald. And if author, producer and screenplay writer J.K. Rowling kills numerous people just on the first movie alone, imagine how many more she will axe in the next four films?
(**EDIT: 21st November 2016) I can’t believe I missed it during my first watch, and only have thought about it while I was in the shower this morning. I should’ve known Percival Graves is Gellert Grindelwald when Graves gave Credence a Deathly Hallows necklace. How come? Because Graves = Peverell brothers = Deathly Hallows = their “grave” in Godric’s Hallow has a Deathly Hallows mark. And who seeks it the most before Lord Voldemort even knew about it? Gellert Grindelwald (and Albus Dumbledore). DUN DUN DUN DUN!!! Damn, J.K. Rowling. DAMN.
What I love most about Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them isn’t just the story, but also its technical stuff. Aside from the great acting both by Eddie Redmayne himself, Newt’s newfound allies and the other supporting characters, the visual effects are also exquisitely done this time. I’m so glad they vastly improved, and the soundtrack also helped in reminding me of what makes this franchise great. Truly, as in J.K. Rowling’s words, this is a family reunion.
That being said, I think the true star of the show goes to Newt Scamander’s creatures. Even though we didn’t get to meet all A-Z of them (we have 4 more films to see them all, anyway), the ones we were introduced to in here was so worth it. From the adorable bowtruckle to the mischievous nifflers and the magnificent Thunderbird named Frank, I find myself smiling, laughing, and tearing up because of how Newt cares for his beasts, he and Hagrid will definitely be besties. Not only that, Potterheads also got a smooth, slight nod to all the creatures we saw from the Harry Potter books and movies, when that goblin jazz singer croons on a stage inside the pub when Newt and Tina, along with Queenie and Jacob, went to meet Tina’s former informant when she was an Auror, Gnarlak.
What’s even more cool is that we also get to hear what’s possibly a future plot line when the jazz singer continues:
“Cause love drives all of us wild.” THIS. This has me thinking, especially with what Tina and Newt talked about before Newt went back to London, what happened between him and Leta Lestrange? We all know the Lestrange’s are cuckoos, but a broken-hearted Lestrange woman might even be more dangerous.
(Side note: Can Eva Green PLEASE play one of the Lestrange women? She’d be so perfect in the Potterverse, I tell you)
Like I said, fantastic isn’t enough word to describe this movie, especially these magical creatures. And if you know the woman who penned Harry Potter, you’d know how she likes to play with words, hiding secret plot lines and phrases that can give us a hint of what to expect in the sequels.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them original screenplay’s inside dust jacket reads, “This is epic, adventure-packed storytelling at its very best, and it will take your breath away” and they didn’t lie. It was just the right movie we’ve all been hungry for.