Set seventy years before the events of the Harry Potter films and novels, this time in New York City as opposed to England, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them has managed to capture the attention of the Potter fandom once again with the promise of an exploration into a region of the Wizarding World that we have yet to see or hear much about. In case you couldn’t already tell from the trailers alone as well, it’s clear that 1920s New York City is a much different animal than the culture that Harry Potter and his friends grew up in.
Something that Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) may learn too late, as his research to discover as many magical creatures as possible hits a detour when a muggle (Dan Fogler) accidentally opens his case full of magical creatures and unleashes them upon the city’s streets, at a time when the separation between the Wizarding and the No-Maj communities is sharp and defined.
In the new featurette released online for the movie as well, it’s clear that Newt doesn’t quite know what he’s gotten himself into when he arrives in New York City the first time:
Clearly recovering still from the atrocities committed upon the Wizarding community in the Salem Witch Trials at the hands of muggles, the wizarding community’s distaste of the non-magical folk is fairly blatant here, with the way that Katherine Waterston’s Porpetina casually insults Dan Fogler’s Jacob, the first muggle to be a main character in any of the Potter films to date. The political parallels and themes for the society we’re living in today as well, are fairly clear.
Rowling describes Newt Scamander as an outsider in the film though, someone similar to all of her previous heroes, and who feels more at home with the magical creatures he carries around at his side than he does around other people, magical or not. The character’s naïveté towards the history of the American Wizarding Community will likely only lead him towards more trouble throughout the film as well, unfortunately for him.
While it all feels familiar to the Harry Potter films though, mostly in its tone and aesthetic, there’s also something clearly new and fresh in the film’s story and characters, as opposed to the Gryffindor-heavy cast of the previous films. As a Potter fan who’s always been curious about the rest of the Wizarding World and the history of it all too, Fantastic Beasts seems more and more like the kind of unexpected Potter follow-up that I never saw coming, but may have been what I wanted all along.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is set to hit theatres on November 18th. Expect to see me at all of the Thursday night screenings on November 17th.
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