25 Nov - 1 Dec 2016 #834

Fantastic beasts and where to find them

You can rest easy that there are the same exquisite details and fierce, tender friendships that you loved in the books
Sophia Pande

J.K. Rowling’s genius lies in her ability to create rich, varied worlds that are full of unforgettable characters. There is a deepness and a darkness in Rowling’s creations that belie the initial perception (to those who have not read the Potter books) that these are “just” children’s stories. There are two fallacies that are inherent in the presumption that children’s literature is facile, the first one assumes that there is no real art required to execute the form, and the second affects that these creations are a lesser genre, conjured to entertain the kiddies and keep them quiet with stories of no real importance. Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland disproves the first notion thoroughly, and Rowling’s Harry Potter series is a resounding showcase of British stoicism, humour, and a certain magical ingenuity that could only have come from the mind of an Englishwoman who, even through her darkest struggles, has managed to teach her readers, young and old, that emotional intelligence is perhaps the most important kind of all.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is penned by the great Rowling herself in a first, enormously successful attempt at screenwriting. Directed by the talented David Yates who has a clear affinity for the world inhabited by Harry Potter, this new franchise exhibits all of the marvels of that wonderful, strange and often unsettling creation, but starring a new cast of very promising characters, several of whom have already lodged themselves inextricably in this particular columnist’s brain.

Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is the star of this show, which introduces and elaborates upon the character’s endearing, particular oddness as he lands in New York City in 1926 on a mysterious mission to Arizona. An unlikely wizard who has hidden depths (quite literally) within his unassuming suitcase, Scamander quickly becomes embroiled (very inadvertently) in an ongoing brouhaha within the wizarding world in the United States. The ensuing chaos involves the eponymous fantastic beasts, a very evil wizard, a disconcerting, thought provoking case of hideous child abuse (an ongoing theme for Rowling if you recall how Harry was treated by the Dursleys), and two love stories between some hilarious eccentrics that bode well for future installments.

Having avidly gobbled up almost everything Rowling has ever written (aside from her first non-Potter novel The Casual Vacancy), most of my delight during this film was elicited by absolute ignorance of the plot, so I will do you the same favour by not elaborating further on exact details. You can rest easy that there are the same exquisite details and fierce, tender friendships that you loved in the books, laced with Rowling’s sure touch that guides this film firmly onto the list of things that make us happy.

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