‘Fantastic Beasts’: Relive the magic

Back to Article
Back to Article

‘Fantastic Beasts’: Relive the magic

Jaap Buitendijk

Jaap Buitendijk

Jaap Buitendijk

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






It’s always hard when good things come to an end. The end of a vacation. The end of an absorbing book. The end of a delicious piece of cake. Sadness marks each of these occurrences, but sadder still was the ending of what, for many, had become their childhood’s foundation: Harry Potter. Those generations fortunate enough to be children while the books came out were simultaneously those generations unfortunate enough to still be children when they stopped.

Following the seventh and final book release came the fleeting reinvigoration conjured by the movies—a brief re-immersion into that most magical of worlds. Once the movies, too, stopped fell those doldrums that signify that a chapter of childhood had now finally come to a close. Then, suddenly, years after the last Harry Potter movie premiered, like the answer to a prayer the sleeping children within us didn’t even know they were praying, the promise of new magic: “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.”

First released on Nov. 18, “Fantastic Beasts” dives back into J.K. Rowling’s world of witchcraft and wizardry, but this time set in 1926 New York City. Eddie Redmayne plays Newt Scamander, a simultaneously ingenious and clueless wizard with a propensity for befriending some interesting creatures. Equipped with a briefcase brimming with magical creatures, Scamander enters New York to quickly find himself caught up in an unfolding drama, for some of which he could be to blame. Meanwhile, a mysterious force has begun to terrorize the city, wreaking havoc and risking the exposure of the entire wizarding world. Trouble is definitely a’brewing.

The film’s focus switches quickly between various plot lines: one centered squarely on the shenanigans of Mr. Scamander and the other trailing behind Percival Graves, a high official in America’s version of the Ministry of Magic, Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA). New characters are introduced with rapidity, including Jacob Kowalski, a Muggle (called a No-Maj in the States) cannery worker who dreams of owning his own bakery. Soon he is swept into the wizarding world, a realm he never dreamed existed. At times these jumps to new characters and new settings became a wee bit jarring—too much happening too soon and then all at once.

Visually, the movie is stunning. Intricate CGI paints the “fantastic beasts” into believable animals, each with their own personalities, tendencies and instincts. Witchcraft becomes reality as teacups float across the screen and walls rebuild themselves at the wave of a wand, inviting us all to participate in the magic. The well-crafted special effects work perfectly with the actors, all existing comfortably in one believably enchanted world.

It must be said: a jump back into my childhood “Fantastic Beasts” was, but perfect it was not. I may be the only person in the history of forever to say Johnny Depp should not have been in a movie, but really he should not have been in this movie—however, at the risk of spoiling anything, his character will remain nameless. When an actor or actress appears in a movie and all that can be seen is that actor, Houston, you’ve got a problem. As soon as Depp appeared in the scene, the magic wavered for a moment.
This is not always the case with recognizable actors, like Eddie Redmayne and Colin Farrell who blend seamlessly into their characters, but it has certainly become the case with Johnny Depp. It may be that he’s simply played too many “wacky” characters or that all of those characters have somehow become interchangeable, but his appearance in “Fantastic Beasts” came as a wholly disappointing surprise.

Apart from Johnny Depp’s unnecessary arrival into the film, watching “Fantastic Beasts” brought a glowing feeling of home. Though the plot jumped sometimes with abrupt quickness, the movie was, on the whole, a joy to watch. Children dream of magic, of witches and wizards, and mythical creatures; Harry Potter brought these things to them and “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” allowed those dreams to soar again. Although J.K. Rowling’s book series will always outshine any of the Harry Potter universe’s movies, one cannot but feel grateful in seeing them come to life on the big screen. “Fantastic Beasts” has now become part of the wizarding world, with four more in this series to follow, and will remind you what all that magic, the magic of Harry Potter, the magic of childhood, felt like all those years ago.