It’s 6:45 p.m. at the AMC Washington Square Theater on Friday, Nov 18. Sheets of rain drench the parking lot as devoted witches, wizards, and even a few Muggles and No-Majs crowd into the theatre for the release of “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” a highly-anticipated film directed by David Yates and produced by David Heyman.
One young wizard comes through the doors soaked to the bone, but grins as he turns to his friend to say, “All this for Harry Potter.” And he is not the only one representing the same statement. One witch is dressed in a familiar Gryffindor tie with a matching lightning scar. Another wears a stunning set of Hogwarts robes, accompanied by a Hufflepuff scarf identical to a certain magizoologist’s.
Everyone moves like a herd of excited hippogriffs to their seats. Those clever enough to come an hour early triumphantly in the top two rows. There’s quiet chatter throughout the room as everyone settles, then silenced altogether 15 minutes later as the clock strikes seven.
The lights darken, and for a moment there is nothing to be heard, not even breathing. Suddenly, the heart-stopping sound of Hedwig’s theme reaches the audience, and the new wizarding era begins.
A movie has at least three main concepts that it must accomplish to become exceptional: phenomenal acting in character roles, a solid plot line with an abundance of twists and turns, and a stunning soundtrack playing in the background. Fantastic Beasts has all three.
First up is Eddie Redmayne, best known for his roles in “Les Misérables,” “The Theory of Everything,” and “The Danish Girl,” the 34-year-old Britain is one of the most respected actors around today. His commitment and work ethic are astounding, a prime example being his role as theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking in the 2014 film, “The Theory of Everything.” Redmayne spent six months researching Hawking’s life, watching countless interviews and studying the physicist’s speech patterns and accent. He even had to learn to walk like someone with ALS. After seeing the film, the real Stephen Hawking himself said, “At times, I thought he was me.” All that work must have paid off, because “The Theory of Everything” won Redmayne a Golden Globe and an Oscar for Best Actor.
Now Redmayne has been invited into J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World to be magizoologist Newt Scamander. He must have been thrilled, not many roles require the use of a handcrafted wand and the signature blue peacock coat that made Daniel Radcliffe jealous.
Almost immediately, I fell in love with the way Eddie embraced this role. His interactions with the creatures were so expertly done, but also genuine, even if they were computer animated. It’s almost as though he has been a magizoologist his entire life. Eddie Redmayne became the eccentric, awkward Newt, and there is absolutely no other actor that could have pulled off the part to the extent that he did.
Dan Fogler is a 40-year-old American actor and stand-up comedian who, in the past, hasn’t been in a lot of well-known blockbuster films, although he did win a Tony award in 2005 for his performance in the Broadway musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. But of late, he gets to play the resident No-Maj in Fantastic Beasts, Jacob Kowalski.
I feel like a good chunk of humor in this movie comes from Jacob, and his entrance into the magical world. Throughout the film, our No-Maj is always in complete awe of the extraordinary things that have been introduced to him, (especially a certain Goldstein sister). He is almost a representation of the audience, we experience a lot of the movie through him and his reactions. It is rather funny, because Jacob came to New York for the simple reason of opening up a bakery, but ended up stumbling into this magical world that he previously knew nothing about. Fogler entered London for auditions and a part that he didn’t even think he would get, but ended up suddenly receiving an invitation into Rowling’s extraordinary Wizarding World. It was clearly the right choice, Fogler’s acting skills are very good, he truly brings to life this wonderful, likeable, very charismatic character.
The last actor I want to call attention to is Ezra Miller, best known for his role as Patrick in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” and his current part as the Flash in the DC Comics cinematic universe. In Fantastic Beasts, he plays the mysterious new character Credence Barebone. Now most readers would expect me to talk about Tina or Percival or Queenie, and don’t get me wrong, they were fantastic. But I feel like Ezra is a bit of an underdog when it comes to this movie. He may not be on all the posters like Redmayne or Katherine Waterston (Tina Goldstein), but Credence is definitely not a character to be dismissed out of hand. Just like the other actors in this film, Miller does a great job bringing his character from a script to the big screen. In some of the rather dark scenes, he is astounding in his ability to project his emotions, to make his suffering seem so real that you can’t help but feel some measure of sympathy for the boy.
As far as the plot is concerned, I swear on Dobby’s grave that I won’t utter a single spoiler. But I will say to my fellow Potterheads out there: you will not be disappointed. So be prepared for as many twists and turns as you can handle.
For those readers who love listening to movie scores, the Fantastic Beasts soundtrack is just the new material that you needed. It’s composed by none other than James Newton Howard himself, who has worked on over 120 movies in his career, including “The Hunger Games” and “Snow White and the Huntsman.” His vast experience and talent make him one of the best composers in the field.
Personally, I think that one of the most important parts of a movie is its score. The music makes the film, it creates the mood and adds underlying layers to the plot. In Fantastic Beasts, Howard’s impeccable soundtrack was imperative, making the light-hearted scenes just right and the darker, more serious scenes even darker than they already were.
J.K. Rowling commented at the film’s European premiere, “This feels very familiar. I feel like the family’s back together because it’s the same team but we have new family members. We’ve got Eddie Redmayne and Katherine Waterston and Dan Fogler and Alison Sudol and Ezra Miller… They’re amazing. I mean, the chemistry between those four… and Ezra just puts in the most magnificent performance. They’ve knocked it out of the park, I’m thrilled.”