I am not afraid to admit that my first ever midnight premiere, and my latest midnight premiere, have been for Harry Potter films. Ever as excited as I was in July 2011 to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, I sat down to Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them with eagerness and intrigue, at midnight of Friday 18th November. And the film did not fail to disappoint; my heart leaping to my throat as soon as the familiar tune of Hedwig’s Theme crept into the background of the Warner Bros logo shot.
“what sets this latest escapade into the wizarding world apart from the previous films was the leap into the unknown”
What sets this latest escapade into the wizarding apart from the previous films was the leap into the unknown. Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them is based on a book written by JK Rowling for Comic Relief, based on a text book mentioned in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. From a list of magical creatures on the scale of how dangerous they are, comes an exciting tale of 1920s New York with a new Ministry of Magic (MACUSA), a new set of wizarding laws and a British wizard who feels very out of place.
The film follows Hufflepuff sorted Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) as he travels to New York to purchase a rare type of animal. Through a set of mix-ups and unfortunate encounters, he sets loose three of his beasts that live inside his small suitcase (think Hermione’s beaded purse in Deathly Hallows) on the city. Teaming up with sisters Tina and Queenie Goldstein and Muggle (or No-Maj in America) Jacob Kowalski to find the animals; all whilst avoiding the wrath of Percival Graves (an engaging and chilling Colin Farrell) and MACUSA as well as the ‘Second Salemers’, a radical group of No-Majs bent on getting rid of wizards once and for all.
“redmayne brings a natural british charm to a new land”
Eddie Redmayne shines as Newt. As an unassuming and rather bumbling magizoologist (magical zoo keeper), Redmayne brings a natural British charm to a new land where he feels (and definitely is) out of place. He doesn’t steal the limelight in the lead role but is gracious in sharing his screen time with his co-stars and bounces well off Katherine Waterston particularly. Waterston is headstrong and doesn’t let the idea of romance get in the way of Tina’s willingness to help, although Tina’s motivations are perhaps a little unclear through the film. Alison Sudol is charming and bubbly as Legellimens (mind-reader) Queenie who strikes up an immediate bond with Dan Fogel’s Jacob, the two having immediate natural chemistry and while a relationship isn’t perhaps so obviously on the cards, the implication is certainly there.
Ezra Miller almost steals the show as Second Salemer, Creedence Barebone. A young man who is both aware of the wizards and reluctant to do his mother’s bidding, the implication of his mother’s physical abuse is not shown onscreen. However Rowling’s clever writing, David Yates’ subtle directing and Philippe Rousselot’s cinematography means that no actual scenes of the violence are needed, the implication is there and further increases the pity for the character.
“the CGI is breathtaking and the audience is truly plunged into this new world”
For a first screenplay by Rowling, the script flows beautifully and most of the action seems to make sense in hindsight of the show. The first half of the film spends a little too long explaining the differences between the American and British wizarding worlds. Furthermore, whilst the motivations of several of the characters, Tina and Graves especially, aren’t always clear; they are consistently well rounded and the ending leaves little doubt as to where the new series is heading. The CGI is breathtaking and the audience is truly plunged into this new world, which differs so much from the world that was presented to film audiences for a decade. If the following five films that span 19 years, up to 1945 (which in Harry Potter history marks the defeat of Grindelwald by Dumbledore) are anything like the first film, then we are in for a treat.