I walked into the cinema and asked to see Fantastic Creatures – that was the level of excitement I had for the new Harry Potter spin-off, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
And I don’t mean I was so excited I forget the name of the film. No. On the excitement scale I was on the other end. I loved the books, but I only saw four of the main franchise movies on the big screen.
But then I heard that this one features big bad Grindelwald, which piqued my interest.
And the good news is that there’s no more owlish Daniel Radcliffe. He’s not even been born yet, let alone had his fateful run-in with You-Know-Who. Instead it’s 1926 – our first Potter period drama – and our hero is Eddie Redmayne’s bumbling Newt Scamander, an expert on magical and marvelous beasts.
Expelled from Hogwarts after a ‘misunderstanding’ over one of his critters, he’s more Hagrid than Harry. But unlike the half-giant gamekeeper, Newt’s from a nice wizarding family, and gets to keep his wand and perform magic, like a posh Hagrid with connections and an education at agricultural college.
Newt is on a trip to New York, where witches and wizards are forbidden from befriending any No-Maj – or ‘Muggle’ to us Brits. Like their British counterparts, MACUSA is secretive and oppressive – they may as well just ban magic from the city all together.
Newt blunders into the equally hapless No-Maj Jacob (Dan Fogler), and they accidentally swap suitcases. Newt’s case is a sort of Tardis kitty-basket, and his beasts are soon running amok all over New York, which is already being ravaged by an unknown magical destructive force that the wizarding authorities are trying to keep quiet.
- Cursed Child Review – Unfortunately, some Muggles didn’t realize that Cursed Child is not a new novel, or a novelization of the play, but a play. Oops.
- 2018 to stay lively with The Crimes of Grindelwald – Duh, he’s playing wizarding Hitler, like literally!
- Fantastic Beasts: the five crimes of Grindelwald – Dumbledore is clearly a hard man to say ‘no’ to.
The international climate is grim, as Grindelwald has begun his reign of terror and is evading capture.
Chuck religious nutter Samantha Morton into the mix with her one-woman anti-witch brigade, and Newt’s stateside arrival is a headache for disgraced former Auror Tina (Katherine Waterston) and her winsome sister Queenie (Alison Sudol), who bond with the magizoologist and new sidekick Jacob.
The incredibly handsome auror boss Percival Graves (Colin Farrell) stalks the alleyways, and wow this guy is something to brag about, while our British witches simper over the likes of Gilderoy Lockhart.
I’m avoiding spoilers here, but Farrell was an inspired choice for a character that has to be slightly…ambidextrous? David Yates has also got one of the acting world’s young male standouts, Ezra Miller, as Morton’s adopted son Credence.
It’s enough to make you wonder what the Potters could have been if the producers had been brave enough to ditch Radcliffe after the Columbus era.
Now we get to see Rowling’s characters brought to life by a cast of real actors. As the first of five movies, Beasts has some teething troubles, but J.K. Rowling is a fab world-builder, and the original screenplays mean we don’t know the story, and it’s Rowling, so there are going to fun twists and surprises in store.