One of the most anticipated films of the year finally arrives. J.K Rowling invites us back to the Wizarding World, and who isn’t going to enter the cinema with excitement (if also slight trepidation).
This new (five-film-spanning) adventure in Harry Potter Land follows Newt Scamander, a magi-zoologist on a trip to New York in 1926, with a suitcase full of magical creatures. Unfortunately, these get loose so Newt enlists the help of an inadvertently involved muggle (no-maj in America), a demoted auror of the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA – the American equivalent of the Ministry of Magic) and her sister, to help find them. Simultaneously, the film details the ongoings of those involved in the New Salem Philanthropic Society, who claim witches and wizards are real and dangerous, as well as the destruction a mysterious force is causing in the city.
Much of the film is based around world-building as we are introduced to a new part of the Wizarding world, and learn about the system and terminology of magic in America. While some of it may sound a little less magical than the words we’re used to, and makes for a fairly exposition-heavy film, it is interesting to see the expansion of the magic. The original world is not forgotten, however, and your heart might jump at the mentions of names of a couple of characters from the original books/films. And, of course, Scamander himself is a connection as the author of the Hogwarts textbook with which this film shares its name.
The film initially follows a fairly basic storyline; the farcical chase to collect all of Newt’s escaped creatures. This makes it feel obvious, initially, that this is a film for children, which, although true, is likely to have a huge grown-up audience, inherited from Harry Potter. However, when the darker elements are woven in, and mysteries explored, it becomes more complex, and more like the latter half of the Harry Potter films. It is here, the film plants seeds for the exploits of the future films, although it is not entirely clear where the stories will take us
Eddie Redmayne gives a charming lead performance as Scamander, and is supported well by all in the cast, breathing life into a great set of characters. The other three who make up the main quartet are especially captivating in their unique and complex roles. The creatures introduced are also brilliant and exciting, imaginative in their form and features, with each given their own personalities.
The film is unclear in parts and although it is fun, it is no Harry Potter (and it will not escape that comparison). However, the adventure still provides a great opportunity to delve into the Wizarding world and indulge in the magic. For some, this will be a welcome revisit, for others, a good introduction.
For the fans, all it will take for the magic to be reignited, is appearance of the Warner Brothers logo on screen, accompanied by some familiar notes.