Director: David Yates
Writer: J.K. Rowling
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a wonderful leap back into J.K. Rowling’s magical world, but it’s not what you might think. While it does tie into the Harry Potter timeline, this one is set in 1926 in New York City. It also centers on a Hufflepuff named Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) rather than a boy with a lightning bolt on his forehead.
Expelled from Hogwarts in England, Schamander travels overseas to America with a tiny brown suitcase full of magical creatures. When he accidentally swaps cases with a no-maj (American muggle) named Jacob (Dan Fogler), some of those precious beings escape and he embarks on an adventure to return them. Along for the ride are Tina (Katherine Waterston), who works for the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA), and her sister Queenie (Alison Sudol), a sultry mindreader.
There are familiar elements, like the constant struggle for witches and wizards to hide magic from no-majs. And then there’s the theme of abused children, which appears in much of Rowling’s works, as Credence (Ezra Miller) often finds himself on the receiving end of corporal punishment by his foster mother, Mary Lou Barebone (Samantha Morton).
According to director David Yates, he’ll play a major part in the next movies to come. Here, you might call him the secondary star. His haunting portrayal of an abused, repressed teen manifests physically in his crouched stance and the submissive way he interacts with Auror Percival Graves (Colin Farrell), whom he’s covertly working with.
“Credence…maybe want isn’t a sufficient word for him because he’s really seeking all this stuff that he desperately needs and Graves is sort of dispensing those things to keep Credence in his trap,” Ezra told me of their relationship. It’s one that feels inappropriate to watch, but at the same time, you can’t turn away.
And that’s the biggest difference between this story and the one about the Boy Who Lived. While Potter’s world was filled some moments of darkness, it never presented such an unsettling relationship as the one between Graves and Credence. Fantastic Beasts also delivers a completely different dynamic, in that we’re focused on four complex adults who’ve already had their coming of age tales. That’s not to say Potterheads won’t enjoy this film. It still has all the main ingredients: magic, wonder, heart, and a group of super talented British (and Irish and American) actors.
In other words, what are you contemplating? You know this movie will be great! Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them heads to theaters on November 18.
Final Grade: A