7:30 PM, 23rd February, 2017
It’s a strange and thrilling experience to see a film set in JK Rowling’s magical world without having read the book first. Well, I mean, I have read the book, obviously, but “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” was a tiny charity publication in 2001, describing only a few magical creatures…
I digress. This film is a joy. As someone who half-lives in the Harry Potter universe, it’s wondrous to see it expanded – like a surprise compartment in a magic suitcase. We see the magical world at a different time and place: 1926 New York, through the eyes of Hogwarts-educated Newt Scamander (Redmayne), who finds it all as curious as we do (They say ‘No-Maj’ instead of ‘Muggle’! They have a Magical Congress, not a Ministry!). Newt is on beast-related business, and his magic suitcase houses a multitude of animals, including a Niffler (a sort of cuddly, avaricious, escape-artist platypus).
Newt loses his suitcase, is temporarily arrested, and befriends a no-maj (Fogler) – a relationship forbidden in this new world, which seems besieged on all sides. The dark wizard Grindelwald is gaining power; a sinister anti-magic association draws crowds on street corners; and an inchoate, deadly force is terrorising the city.
And that’s, maybe, the first twenty minutes: it only ramps up from there. The plot is tight and twisty; the effects are stunning; and the magical creatures are ADORABLE AND CUDDLY, no matter how many spikes, fangs or talons they have. I want all of them.