Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Warner Brothers, 2016. Dir. David Yates

I won’t lie; I was among those who believed, when this was first announced, that it was just a money-grabbing scheme. Surely we’ve had enough of the Potterverse? Surely there can’t be more J.K. Rowling has to tell us?

Never have I been happier to be proven wrong.

My relationship with the world of Harry Potter has been a long and rich one. My first memory of the series is being about nine years old and a girl in my class reading the books. This was in maybe 1999, possibly 2000 when Prisoner of Azkaban had just been released and I was determined not to read them. This girl was my year 4 nemesis and whatever she liked, I couldn’t like. Fortunately for me, my family moved not long after and I was free to discover the series and I really haven’t looked back since. From there I became the child dragging my parents to nighttime releases of the new books, the one who finished Order of the Phoenix in a day and the one who took her time at the end of Deathly Hallows because I just couldn’t let it go.

I’ve re-read and re-watched them over and over again since then. They’re like my safety blanket; whenever life is getting a bit much, I can run away to Hogwarts and everything’s just a little bit better.

The Cursed Child confused me. The initial ticket released for the stage shows sort of passed me by and then I was abroad for the publication of the script and just couldn’t get into it when I finally got hold of it. I’ve still yet to finish it. I really want to see it, but right now the thought of paying so much money for a theatre ticket is a bit unrealistic.

The cost of a cinema ticket on the other hand – perfect doable.

Fantastic Beasts is based on a tiny little booked penned by Rowling for Comic Relief back in 2001. I have a copy somewhere and next time I’m home I’m going to search for it. I remember loving it, especially the annotations scribbled by Ron and Harry that were just brilliant.

The trouble with this is that Fantastic Beasts is a school textbook. It’s non-fiction and so the idea of a movie following the exploits of its author was just unknown territory. I simply didn’t know what to expect.

What I got was beyond what I could have imagined. It’s clear from this that there is just so much more that Rowling has to tell us about the world she has so lovingly created.

I was initially cynical about it being based in the USA. Rowling has always been keen on her world being very British – it just felt strange, but having seen the film, it makes complete sense. She uses the setting to subtly comment on social issues in America that are still so relevant today, despite the film’s being set in 1926. Ideas about class and race are hinted at; with Newt disapproving of the way American wizards are not allowed to even befriend ‘No-Majs’ (muggles). Fantastic Beasts manages to send clear messages without being overly preachy, and all within an absolutely stunning story.

Newt Scamander, a British ‘magizoologist’ travels to America to set one of his charges free. Unfortunately for him he’s picked a bad time to come as some sort of creature is wreaking havoc in New York, and after a mix-up with a ‘No-Maj’ results in his magical suitcase of beasts being opened and some of them escaping, he is immediately blamed.

It sounds like the opportunity for a bit of a romp – band of characters go on a quest to recapture the lost beasts and clearing Newt’s name, and that is part of it, but it’s also so much more than that.

At the heart of the story is a young man, the adopted son of an anti-magic campaigner. I can’t say much about him for fear of giving too much away, but what evolves from his story made me incredibly excited for the films that will follow (Rowling has promised there will be 5 Fantastic Beasts titles in all) and has made me theorise a lot about how these revelations link to certain plot points in the original Harry Potter series.

Ezra Miller is fantastic as this boy. I’ve pretty much loved him in everything I’ve seen him in and I’m so glad he got this role. It suits him brilliantly. In fact the whole cast is pretty perfect. I’ve always been a bit… unsure about Eddie Redmayne but now I think he’s great. He made this character lovable and mysterious and his mating ritual (you have to see it!) made me laugh out loud. I also really enjoyed Alison Sudol as Queenie: she was just so endearing and with such an interesting voice!

What I really liked was the fact that I didn’t recognise every actor. It would have been so easy to populate this cast with well-known names, but instead I maybe recognised… 7? It was very refreshing.

I’m staying out of the whole Johnny Depp thing. I get that having him here is a contentious issue, but I think he played the part well. End of.

I ended up seeing this twice, once with Jonny and once with my sister and I loved it both times. I cannot wait to see what is in store for us with the next instalment.

Em x

PS. I’m still trying to figure out what images I’m allowed to use. If you know of a problem with any I’ve included, please let me know.

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