When a film version of J.K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was first announced, many assumed the movie would be a gentle, family adventure and certainly much lighter in tone than the last few films in the Harry Potter franchise. However, the more trailers, tidbits and plot details that are released, the more it becomes apparent that Fantastic Beasts actually has a lot more darkness and depth to it than anyone first thought. A good thing, then that David Yates is at the helm of Rowling’s first screenplay; the director also helmed the final four Harry Potter movies, which were certainly gripping to behold on the big screen, and downright scary at times.
Fantastic Beasts stars Eddie Redmayne as Magizoologist Newt Scamander, who arrives in 1920s New York with a case full of magical creatures. An unsuspecting No-Maj, Jacob (Dan Fogler), accidentally opens the case and the creatures run rampant around New York – a city that has a deep rooted fear of Witchcraft. Assisted by Tina and Queenie Goldstein (played by Katherine Waterston and Alison Sudol, respectively), Newt must recapture his creatures while trying to avoid any unwelcome repercussions from the Magical Congress of the USA. On top of all that, the entire magical community is being pursued by the New Salem Philanthropic Society, run by Mary-Lou Barebone with reluctant help from her son, Credence. It is this element that takes what would be a fairly basic storyline and turns it into something dealing with much more adult themes of fear of the unknown, intolerance and unacceptance.
Fantastic Beasts is featured on the cover of this month’s EW (see below), and Sudol explained how the message of the movie fits well into the current climate we find ourselves living in:
“There’s all kinds of things going on in our world right now concerning immigration and tensions between different groups. There’s a lot about segregation in this film, a lot about fear of the ‘other.’ These creatures, who the world sees as ugly, dangerous or weird, Newt has such love for them, and through his love we fall in love with them. J.K. Rowling has tapped into really deep and pertinent issues.”
While the promise of many magical and fantastic beasts might lure younger audiences, it will also be pleasing to the original Harry Potter fans that the movie deals with current issues as well. After all, Harry Potter was primarily about the battle between good and evil, but also focused on Harry’s need to find acceptance after so many years of feeling like an outsider. Having Fantastic Beasts deliver a dark undertone of hatred and threat will be what pulls an older audience in and keeps them wanting more, which is a good thing since the sequel has already been written.
While we can probably assume that good will eventually triumph, it will still be interesting to see the Philanthropic Society and Mary-Lou relentlessly pushing to bring the Witches and Wizards of New York to ‘justice’; and more interesting still, to see how MACUSA overcomes this and whether Newt Scamander will be able to recapture all of his beasts.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them opens in U.S. theaters on November 18th, 2016, followed by Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 2 on November 16th, 2018.