Tag Archives: Harry Potter

Thoughts on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)

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WARNING: Spoilers abound especially towards the end so if you haven’t seen this film and DON’T want to know…turn back now!!!

Well…of all the surprises I was expecting/hoping for this year, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was definitely the biggest! I say this because I originally had no plans to see this film at all. With all due respect to the legions of Harry Potter fans, this is one film franchise I just couldn’t get into. But then, due to a podcast commitment, I decided to give this film a chance and wow!!! I’m so glad I did!

The magical world in 1920s America is beautifully realized, with one of my favorite parts being the magical speakeasy (with a house elf singer no less, at least, I think she was a house elf, please correct me if I’m wrong). My only complaint is the insistence on calling non-magical people “no-maj’s”. I mean, seriously, that just sounds stupid. Can’t Muggle just be the universal term for people with no magic? But really, that was my only major complaint (well, there is one other minor issue, but I’ll come to that momentarily).

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM

The Beasts are beautifully rendered, and their home inside the magical suitcase is one of the highlights of the film (James Newton Howard outdid himself with a beautiful score). For most of the film, my favorite Beast was the Niffler, a creature that somewhat resembles a mole, and has an insatiable desire for all things shiny and valuable (to put it bluntly, he’s a kleptomaniac who likes to swipe gold and jewelry). In fact, there’s a hilarious sequence where Newt Scamander (a brilliant Eddie Redmayne) attempts to get the Niffler out of a jewelry store with “bull in the china shop” consequences.

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But then Newt introduces us to the Thunderbird and I knew I’d found my favorite magical creature. The Thunderbird is a huge, gorgeous creature with gold and silver in its feathers (and according to Newt is a native of Arizona) that has the power to generate thunderstorms, hence its name. Seeing a bird like that made me wish (again) that this magical world really did exist. The other beasts are also well-done (one creature had to be tracked down in a zoo, leading to a funny moment where Newt has to imitate a mating ritual to lure the beast back into the suitcase).

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And then there’s the American wizards and witches….Tina and Queenie are an interesting pair of sisters (I love Queenie, I really do), and it was cool to see how life went on in their apartment (with all the magical activity). The President of MACUSA (Magical Congress of the United States of America) is a reasonably good person who just wants to protect her fellow witches and wizards from a populace that would most likely lynch them all if the truth ever got out. And then there’s Percival Graves (Colin Farrell), a high-ranking Auror with his own agenda. He’s initially presented as a stern, but reasonable man. If someone presents him with firm evidence of something, he’ll act on it. But there’s a lot more to Graves than meets the eye (more on that shortly).

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And I can’t forget Jacob Kowalski, the “No-maj” of the story who becomes tangled up in this magical adventure (to his growing delight). He simply wants to open a bakery because that’s what he loves to do, but a chance encounter with Newt changes everything. He really steals the show at several points throughout the story, and I hope he turns up in the sequel, I really do.

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Back to Percival Graves: it turns out he’s hunting through New York City for a certain child, one that contains incredible power that’s been repressed into what’s known as an “Obscurious.” Graves is desperate to find this individual and is using a young man named Credence to help him do it. It turns out that Credence had magical parents (at least his mother was magical) but his mother died giving birth to him and he was adopted by a cruel no-Maj woman who beats him every chance she gets. Graves has promised Credence that if he can find this child, Graves will take him away to the magical world and teach him magic. But once Credence believes the child in question is his foster sister Modesty, Graves abandons him, believing Credence to be a Squib (child of magical parents but with no talent for it themselves).

Well…as it turns out, Credence had the repressed power all along (much to Graves’ surprise) and though Graves (and Newt) attempt to save Credence, other Aurors swoop in and kill him. Newt had been suspicious of Graves for a while and after binding the Auror with one of his creatures, he uses a revealing spell and…surprise surprise, Graves is actually the notorious wizard Grindelwald played by Johnny Depp!! I’m not sure how I feel about this casting choice to be honest, I mean it COULD be okay, but he’s onscreen for maybe five minutes maximum so you can’t really gauge how he’s going to play the character yet. I’m actually a little disappointed because I’d gotten used to Colin Farrell and I would’ve been intrigued to see him continue in the role.

Final verdict: Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them was an enjoyable ride that’s left me excited for the sequels that are sure to follow.

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Nicholas Hooper “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” scoring session (2009)

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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince scoring sessions

The sixth installment in the Harry Potter film franchise was released in 2009 to general acclaim. Harry, now in his sixth year at Hogwarts, becomes obsessed with a textbook that belonged to someone named “the half-blood Prince” while also falling in love with Ginny Weasley (Ron’s little sister). Voldemort and his Death Eaters are on the move (Draco Malfoy has been assigned a mission by the Dark Lord himself) and Harry and Dumbledore are searching for the key that could destroy Voldemort once and for all.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

It turns out that the secret of Voldemort’s power lies in the fact that he constructed Horcruxes: magical objects that contain a portion of a wizard’s soul and thereby prevent death if anything happens to that wizard’s body (this is why Voldemort wasn’t outright killed when his Killing Curse rebounded onto him the night Harry’s parents were killed).

The only way to kill Voldemort once and for all is to first destroy every last Horcrux. It won’t be easy, with Death Eaters lurking everywhere and a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher (in the form of Professor Slughorn), it might be impossible even for Harry Potter. One thing is for sure, this story has an ending you’ll never see coming.

The score for this film was composed by Nicholas Hooper, who first provided the music for the fifth film: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007). The footage above comes from one of the scoring sessions held at the famous Abbey Road Studio. There you see one of the conductors, an orchestrator, as well as the composer himself. This particular session involves recording the opening cue of the film, which, as always, features a reprise of “Hedwig’s Theme” (possibly the most famous theme from the entire Harry Potter film series).

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Enjoy this behind the scenes look at recording the score for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince!

And for more Harry Potter, see also:

 Alexandre Desplat talks Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (2010)

Thoughts on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)

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Alexandre Desplat talks Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (2010)

*the links in this post contain affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link.

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Alexandre Desplat talks Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (2010)

I know the Harry Potter films are very popular, so what I’m about to say will probably shock you: I’ve only seen Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (and a few scenes from The Chamber of Secrets). I was simply never able to get into the Harry Potter films the way my friends were (knowing that they seriously diverged from the books didn’t help). I do mean to watch them all someday though.

Though I haven’t seen most of them, I do remember when the news broke that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows would be split into two films. I wasn’t that surprised by the news, the last book was so huge that it would’ve been nearly impossible to jam everything into a single film. Therefore, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 was released in 2010, while Part 2 was released the following year.

The film follows Harry and his friends as they attempt to seek and destroy the Horcruxes that contain pieces of Voldemort’s soul (and thereby make him immortal). At the same time, Voldemort is plotting to kill Harry and he also seeks the Elder Wand (one of the “Deathly Hallows”, the others being the Cloak of Invisibility and the Resurrection Stone).

The music for this film and its sequel was composed by Alexandre Desplat, making him the fourth composer to provide music for this film series (John Williams composed for the first three films, Patrick Doyle for the fourth and Nicholas Hooper for films five and six).Desplat is an accomplished composer, having written the scores for The Golden Compass, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Argo and the upcoming Rogue One (among many other films).

In this interview clip found above, we are given a look at the recording of the score during post-production, with Desplat and several producers giving insight into how the score was put together, and what it was like working with a new composer.

I hope you enjoyed learning a little bit about the score of this film. Enjoy the weekend!

See also:

Film Composer Interviews A-H

Film Composer Interviews K-Z

Nicholas Hooper “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” scoring session (2009)

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

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*poster image is the property of Warner Bros. Pictures