Sunday, 26 November 2017

Book Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them


This screenplay is something that I had been meaning to read for some time, although I was put off by it being a script. However, after reading The Cursed Child, I decided to take the plunge and read this script too. I remember reading the original 2001 Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them when it was released and it was also mentioned in the original Harry Potter series as a listed textbook, which is why the title sounds so familiar. I watched the film and loved the storyline and the alternative side of the wizarding world. Set in America, they have different views on relationships with between wizards and non-Magic people then they do in Europe. They’re described as ‘No-Maj’ rather than ‘Muggles’, which is takes some getting used to but it’s such a simple but effective way of showing how different countries have different rules, regulations and slang language. It’s not as much of a literal script as the The Cursed Child is, purely because there is more overall descriptive prose in Fantastic Beasts. It’s also more similar to the original Harry Potter series in linguistic style as it was written by J. K. Rowling herself, with no other input.

The new characters are introduced part by part, each with their own stories and backgrounds, although the first character that we meet fully (other than through descriptive prose) is Newt Scamander, arriving in New York with the intention of buying a rare magical creature. I’d seen the film before deciding to read the screenplay, which they are identical in terms of essentials, but it was easier to understand through the amount of added explanations and descriptions of changing of scenes, characters and locations that I missed watching the film. One of the reasons that Newt is so endearing as a character is that he’s a typical Hufflepuff; loyal and completed devoted to his animals. It’s nice to see a main character that from the often forgotten about Hogwarts house, particularly as Newt isn’t a stereotypical hero figure, having been expelled from Hogwarts in his youth. The two sisters, Queenie and Tina are equally as loveable, seeming to genuinely care for each other and definitely excellently trained in magic, for example Queenie is an accomplished Legilimens and Tina was an Auror for MACUSA before she was disgraced.

Another excellent character addition to the plot is Jacob Kowalski, a Polish born American No-Maj who is desperate to open a bakery. He becomes involved by mistake, as he carries a similar sized and coloured briefcase to Newt’s so naturally, they get mixed up; he takes to the ways of the magical world with minimal stress or confusion. In fact, he and Newt become very close and Queenie loves him from the moment she reads his mind. As the magical world within America (MACUSA) is very strict with regard to their rules about friendships between magic and non-magic people, it was dangerous for Jacob to be involved, but he was also incredibly brave and ready to accept any of the hurdles out to get the group without complaint, which is amazing for a normal person. There are other characters in the mix, such as Percival Graves and Seraphina Picquery who both work for MACUSA, a family who are trying to make the public believe that witches live amongst them and the elusive Grindelwald; another character that fans of the original series will definitely recognise by name, at least.

Overall, I loved Fantastic Beasts far more than The Cursed Child, which is a little unfair as they’re not the same (one is screenplay and the other a script) but as they’re both written to be seen, either on film or onstage, it does make sense to compare them a little. One of the reasons why I prefer Fantastic Beasts is that I never once compared the writing to the original series as the characters were new and being set in a different time and continent so everything was a surprise, whereas in The Cursed Child it was difficult not to compare the characters that were so familiar to how we remembered them in the original series. I loved the male bonding between Newt and Jacob, how the two of them helped each other out in so many ways, including looking after Newt’s animals and encouraging Jacob to fulfill his dream of opening his own bakery. Tina and Queenie were also great characters, I became really fond of the main four and I’m excited that there are more films coming out over the next few years; hopefully they will release the screenplays for those, too. The design of the book works really well with the 1920s time-frame, as well as adding something a little more magical. If I were to be completely honest, my inner child is very disappointed that this isn’t available in novel form, as I do love the story and it’s characters. It reminded me of pre Goblet of Fire where the characters were introduced sporadically and mostly good, but with a dark omen hiding behind the scenes. Contrary to what I would usually recommend, definitely watch the film before reading this, as if you don’t like the film you’ll enjoy the screenplay even less. I, however, can not wait for the next instalment, it’s so interesting to see the wizarding world through the eyes of new characters, in new places.

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