It was the year 2001. The first film adaptation of the Harry Potter series had just come out – The Philosopher’s Stone. Die hard fans had declared battle against the muggles for saying it didn’t matter that the film was different to the book. A ten year fight ensued, with each new film augmenting the disdain. It seemed the divide was irrevocable. Until now…
New York. The roaring twenties. The endearingly awkward Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), magizoologist and soon to be author of the revered Hogwarts set text, has just completed a global excursion to find, document, and adopt an array of magical beasts. What should be a brief stop over in the Big Apple turns into an trouble filled trip when Newt swaps briefcases with a No-Maj (American for Muggle) named Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), who accidentally releases some of the wizard’s creatures into the city. And so Newt must find his adoptive children whilst navigating his way through the worsening relations of the city’s magical and non-magical inhabitants, all of whom are under threat of attack from an enigmatic and deadly creature. To make matters worse, the MACUSA (The Magical Congress of The United States of America) think Newt is to blame, but all is not as it seems.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them marked the first screenplay to be written by J.K Rowling and the fifth to be directed by David Yates, the man responsible for the final four films of the franchise – each regarded among Pottermores as an injustice to the books. Concern was therefore warranted as to whether the film would reopen old wounds. Indeed, it was with bated breath and a constantly shifting bar of expectations that fans awaited it; but Yates redeemed himself with this breath of fresh magic.
The film captured that which made us fall and stay so madly in love with the wizarding world and the boy who lived. Characters and dialogue so captivating that you would unhesitatingly swap your life to be a part of theirs. Magical creatures and happenings to be found only in the deepest parts of the imagination. A protagonist for whom you would drop out of Hogwarts and never look back. But most of all, it captured the incomparable feeling of safety and peace of mind incited by J K Rowling’s work.
Do not expect the film to be one of detail and backstory, for that was not its purpose. It was the foundation upon which the four subsequent films would take their cue. A varied mix of open ends to be continued and developed. She has proven this to be her style – to a create a world that offers escapism for more than a few mere hours, but rather for a lifetime.
Not just for her fans, but for herself also. Aside from being a spell-binding piece of cinema, it is also Rowling’s not so subtle commentary on the current political climate, specifically on those issues she feels most passionate about – bigotry, repression, fear, and narcissism. Admittedly, to a viewer well informed on current events, it was a trivialisation of what the world faces today, but to a young audience or the generation who grew up with her, it was an embodiment of the woman to whom we owe some of our happiest memories.
The film was not made to be a political statement, nor was it made to rival Harry Potter; and to view it under either guise would be to prevent oneself from the finding the one thing guaranteed in her work.