Rating: Very Severe
Running time: 2 hour 13 minutes
Director: David Yates
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Colin Farrell, Ezra Miller
Spoiler alert in effect.
Where do I even begin? It’s been a long time coming since the last Harry Potter film played on the big screen and I had the exact same feelings of kid-like excitement as I sat down in the theatre. When the Warner Bros. logo came up and the music played, I felt like I was back home. And while it wasn’t Hogwarts, 1920s New York felt just as comforting.
First thing I have to say is that it exceeded my expectations. I came into the film only with information I read on Pottermore and whatever was said on mainstream media. I tried to avoid listening to Mugglecast or reading reviews or fan theories as a way of being surprised during the film. I’m glad I didn’t spoil anything for myself, because I loved being shocked at all the things that happen. Of course, most notably, the fact that Graves was Grindewald all along. I expected the movie to be more about the magical beasts and Newt’s adventure in trying to capture them all but I’m very happy with the fact that they integrated a more complex plot into this, introducing key characters and key issues that I’m sure Rowling will develop as the films progress. You can tell it’s Rowling’s screenplay because of the complexity and depth of each character and that characteristic British humour she has. She really gives each character proper development and by the end of the film, you can already identify certain quirks and peculiarities of each one. This is what I felt was missing from The Cursed Child. Rowling only had a supporting role, if you will, in writing and developing the script to that play and that’s why it reads like a fanfic. I’m so glad Rowling is back at the helm for these films and I’m excited to see just how intricately it’ll relate back to the original 7 books. I think what is so cool about these films is that none of the fans know what it’ll be about. Unlike the other 8 films, there is no book this is based on, so everything will come as a surprise, which none of us have experienced before.
The relationships between each of the characters is also something I really enjoyed. They felt real and touching, especially between Queenie and Jacob. They both looked past the fact that one was magical and one was not, which juxtaposes against the backdrop of 1920s America, where the wizarding community were forbidden from any contact or relationships with No-Majs. While things in the past may have spurred MACUSA to enforce such strict rules (read Pottermore for more information), it goes to show that we’re all people, we all feel the same things, and so we shouldn’t have to be kept apart. I think this presents a real commentary on the current affairs of the world right now, with Trump being recently elected as the next President and the genuine concern people have about his racist and sexist views. Art will always imitate life and serves as a reminder and gives comfort to us in times of need.
With Newt and Tina, I love them to pieces. They fit in the same way Ron and Hermione belong with each other. It might not be obvious at first glance, but the chemistry and bond starts right from the beginning. At their core, they are both deeply passionate at what they do and they have good intentions, even if it doesn’t always go according to plan. And they both care about other people and creatures and are loyal to their friends. So even though they may not agree on everything, they are good people and that’s what connects them.
In terms of the actual magical creatures and beasts the film showcased, I loved them all! Picking my favourites are hard, but I can narrow it down to Pickett (the Bowtruckle!), Nifflers, Moon-calves and Demiguises. Basically the cuter/fluffier ones. However, I must say that I’m impressed with the Thunderbird. When I got sorted into that house on Pottermore, I was initially hesitant because I thought it was a mean/scary creature. But turns out, they are majestic, powerful, beautiful creatures. It even helped out the whole magical community by creating rain to make all the Muggles forget about what they saw, thereby protecting the anonymity of the magical community. I definitely feel a closer connection towards it and towards my house now.
Johnny Depp. A controversial casting choice. I won’t go into this so much, I think a lot has been said in the media already. Purely in terms of whether I think he would be a good Grindewald, the jury’s still out. I’m quite tentative at the moment. I thought Colin Farrell did an amazing job as Graves and I’m sad to see that he was Grindewald all along. I’ve never been a huge fan of Depp but I have to admit, he does play eccentric and bold characters very well, so I guess I’m keeping an open mind until the next film. Related to Grindewald is the short line he says at the end of the film “Will we die, just a little?” No idea what this meant and I’m still as puzzled as I was when watching it. All I can think is that it might reference the Deathly Hallows, in the sense that someone who possesses the Deathly Hallows can conquer death and so can’t fully die. I guess it’ll make sense in future films.
Now a predominant topic of conversation after the film involves Ariana Dumbledore. After reading theories online, it made me realise once again that Rowling is a fricking genius! The Obscurus idea fits so perfectly with the Ariana plot. She was someone who suppressed her magical abilities because of the bullying/teasing/trauma she experienced as a child from others, so it’s highly plausible that she herself is an Obscurial. This can explain her seemingly uncontrolled outbursts of magic, and the unexplained deaths of her mother and ultimately, herself. This would also tie in nicely with the fact that Grindewald was interested in befriending Albus. In this movie, we see that he takes a particular interest in finding an Obscurus, to harness their destructive nature and use it for the “greater good”, to free wizards from living in fear of Muggles (or as the Americans call it “No-Majs”). If he believed Ariana was an Obscurial, then this might be why he befriended Albus, and why Albus was ultimately devastated at the loss of their friendship, as Grindewald revealed his true intentions. Rowling did mention in a tweet that the 5 films would span from 1926 to 1945. Of course, 1945 is when the infamous duel between Dumbledore and Grindewald occurs. This suggests that the last film may end with this epic scene. Only time will tell. Update: In fact, a featured article is now up on Pottermore regarding Ariana’s life, so this might be strongly hinting the fact that she is heavily linked to the FB plot.
Now another interesting character introduced was Leta Lestrange. When I watched the film, I have to admit I didn’t quite catch her name, when Queenie was asking Newt who the girl in the photograph was. I heard “Leta the Strange” which is technically the correct translation haha. Only after googling it did I discover that her surname was Lestrange, obviously related to a member of the Lestrange family. Perhaps her defection to the Dark Arts led to the end of her friendship/relationship with Newt? Who knows. I was surprised that they had already cast Zoe Kravitz as Leta. I didn’t quite recognise her in the photograph. It should be interesting to see how they become friends/lovers, because we all know that Newt ends up with Tina.
Some of my favourite scenes are those really touching scenes like when Newt gives the Occamy eggs to Jacob right at the end to provide collateral for his bakery loan (although it might be a difficult to extract that silver into a form where it’s acceptable as collateral haha). Another is the scene where Jacob is about to step into the rain and forget everything and everyone he’s just met. It’s so sad because you can see the sacrifice he is willing to make and the pain caused to everyone, especially Queenie. I’m hoping that the scene where Queenie visits Jacob at his bakery means that he still has some recollection of his magical adventures. Another scene which I thought really showed how brave and caring Newt is was when he saved Tina after they were both sent to be executed. He had to use his wits and be able to convince Tina to trust him, and it goes to show the connection they already had with each other. And of course, Tina herself is a very thoughtful, caring and strong woman. You can see this when she tries to protect Credence, both at this foster home and when they were in the subway. Like Newt, she cares about other people deeply. It’s sad to see that the people at MACUSA aren’t willing to take the time or effort to try to understand people like Credence, who have been abused and abandoned by society. Everyone’s first reaction is fear and so they respond by using power and violence to subdue him, when really, he could’ve been saved had they allowed Tina and Newt to talk to him.
Overall, I had the time of my life watching it and while this review is probably a little biased (ok, quite a lot), I think even non-Potterheads will enjoy it because you don’t really need to know anything about Harry Potter to enjoy the adventure and jokes. So do yourself a favour and watch it.
Rotten Tomatoes: 76%
1. How does this compare to the first film of Harry Potter (Philosopher’s Stone)?
2. What do you think of Johnny Depp being cast as Grindewald?
3. Any additional theories about what the 4 other films have in store?