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I can’t believe that we can once again go to a movie theater and watch a Harry Potter film. Sitting in the dark on Thursday night and hearing the first few notes of “Hedwig’s Theme” as the Warner Brother’s logo appeared was slightly surreal. I had just turned thirteen when Sorcerer’s Stone was released and here I am, newly twenty-eight, still geeking out over these movies. With Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them being planned as a five film series, I could have kids of my own by the time this chapter of the Harry Potter story is over. I can’t even comprehend that. So instead I’m going to talk about Fantastic Beasts because it was wonderful, and because there are a lot of fun connections to what we already know about the Potter world as well as lots of questions we all want the answers to in the sequels.
*This should go without saying but just in case, there are major spoilers ahead for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.*
While exploring Newt’s expanding briefcase of wonder, Queenie comes across a photo of a girl named Leta Lestrange. Harry Potter fans will of course recognize the Lestrange name, and know that they’re not remembered for being the kindest people. Using Legilimency, Queenie surmises that Newt and Leta used to be close but no longer are.
Although it’s not in the movie, according to the original screenplay, a wayward magical experiment of Leta’s injured a student at Hogwarts and Newt took the blame, which led to his expulsion. It’s unclear if this was the reason for their falling out, or if Leta started to be tempted by the Dark Magic that later becomes associated with the Lestrange family.
Just look at Percival Graves go. He’s the guy who gets stuff done for the President. When mysterious attacks start taking place all over New York, she can count on him to find out what’s behind it. Realizing that it must be the work of a child who can’t control their magical abilities, we watch Graves turn to Credence Barebone, a young man who lives at the local orphanage, to help him figure out who the child is.
Just when it seemed that the whole He Was a Secret Bad Guy All Along trope was about to play out, it’s revealed that Percival Graves wasn’t Percival Graves at all.
It’s Gellert Grindelwald y’all! I already knew that Johnny Depp had been cast as Grindelwald and would be making a cameo appearance in Fantastic Beasts, but there were some people in the theater that were clearly shocked to see him. There was a very definite “Holy crap, is that Johnny Depp?!” reaction, complete with giggling and gasping.
For those of us that are well versed in Harry Potter backstory, moments like Graves asking Newt, “What makes Albus Dumbledore so fond of you?” or giving Credence a Deathly Hallows charm have an entirely new meaning knowing that it was actually Grindelwald in disguise doing those things.
It remains to be seen what happened to the real Percival Graves. If Grindelwald used Polyjuice Potion to impersonate Graves in a Barty Crouch Jr/Mad-Eye Moody type situation, then it’s reasonable to assume that he’s still alive. However, Grindelwald is an incredibly powerful wizard, so it’s possible that he could have killed Graves and used some other magical means of impersonation.
Even if Graves is still alive, with the second movie being set in Paris it’s unlikely that we’ll see him again. Which is such a shame, because I loved Colin Farrell in this. Acting-wise he had one of the most interesting roles in the movie, and I want to go see it again so I can watch all of the little things he does now that I know who he’s actually playing.
The tie-ins to existing Harry Potter canon were great, but I also loved that we were introduced to new features of the magical community. If a child possesses magical abilities but tries to suppress them due to fear of persecution by their community, all of that energy becomes a dangerous, unstable force that ends up killing the child. Of course J.K. Rowling gave that force an appropriately sinister name: the Obscurus. Newt has an Obscurus trapped in a protective bubble in his case that he got when he was trying to separate it from a little girl in Sudan in order to save her from it.
One of the big reveals of the movie is that Credence Barebone is an Obscurial, and a lingering question is whether or not Credence was able to survive once the Obscurus trapped inside him was destroyed. Sure, the thing was kind of…blown to smithereens, but stranger things have happened in the Potter world. I’d like to see him again (and apparently a deleted scene from the movie suggests that we will) because I was a big fan of Ezra Miller’s portrayal.
However, it wasn’t until the day after we saw the movie that my friend pointed out that we actually did know what an Obscurus was, although it didn’t have a name at the time. In Deathly Hallows it’s explained that Dumbledore’s younger sister Ariana was attacked by a group of Muggle boys when they saw her doing magic. After the attack she was so traumatized that she could no longer control her magic, and she later caused an explosion that killed her mother. It was shortly after this that Dumbledore became involved with Grindelwald. Perhaps it was his contact with Ariana that led to Grindelwald becoming so interested in procuring the power of an Obscurus in the first place?
In one of the scenes that takes place at MACUSA, a magical leader recognizes Newt and mentions that his older brother Theseus is a war hero. We know nothing else, but it will no doubt come up in one of the later films. Having a brother that is revered for his bravery no doubt informs Newt’s personality and character, since he’s far more interested in being around animals. I predict lots of Scamander family drama ahead.
Jacob Kowalski was a freaking delight every single second he was on the screen. Huge props to Dan Fogler, who managed to steal every scene he was in. I can’t even get into everything he did that was fantastic because I’d have to go over most of the movie. Although everyone’s favorite No-Maj ended up being Obliviated, the last shot of the movie makes it seem like Jacob might just end up remembering after all and I think it’s safe to say that we’ll see him again. We have to, he’s too good to not be in the sequels!
Read all the TN coverage of Fantastic Beasts here and share your thoughts about the movie in the comments!