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Fantastic Movies and Where to Find Them

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a whimsical romp through 1920s New York City that doesn’t stop once it stops. Eddie Redmayne gives a performance as Newt Scamander filled with awkward charm and no small measure of magic. The story revolves around the wizard in question and begins laying the foundation for our understanding of the wizarding world in the United States. Newt arrives in New York shortly after the destructive attack of a dark magical force on a Muggle housing block. Scamander, just back from a worldwide magi-zoological expedition carries an enchanted case full of excotic and exciting creatures that make an unfortunately timed bid for freedom after Newt and a no-mag (non-magical person) do the old switcharoo with their briefcases by mistake. We spend the remainder of the movie following Newt, Jacob (the muggle) and an ex-auror (magical law enforcement) on a wild goose (or maybe niffler) chase through the city as the U.S. Magical Congress makes a valiant effort valiant effort to locate and eliminate the danger plaguing the city.

A stark contrast can be seen between the two storylines, especially in the first thirty minutes or so of the film. Jacob and Newt act as a narrative dream team for the exposition of the universe, with Jacob knowing very little about wizarding in general and Newt knowing close to nothing about New York it gives the perfect opportunity for us to learn as they do. On the flip of the wonderments seen in a cool tone technicolor there is a more serious problem lurking. Throughout the film there is a showcase of prejudice against wizard kind and a general feeling of resentment towards no-mag opposite that. Grindelwald (Voldemort’s predecessor) is on the rise in Europe and the dark force is later revealed to be a parasitic force that takes over the powers of magic children who have been neglected or oppressed. It takes finesse to handle such subject matter in a fantasy film when one is at constant risk of seeming to preachy to the audience. I feel that the team of filmmakers and Rowling did an excellent job with keeping the movie light as it moved forward without disregarding the seriousness of the subjects they were addressing. This film was the first instance in the Harry Potter universe where there is no connecting book but somehow it became rich in character and charm, perhaps richer than some of the first eight films, and brought the magic back to the cinema that I had been waiting with bated breath for since the last scene of Deathly Hallows and the end of ‘seventeen years later’.

 

Cas Mayhall

December, 2016