So the prospect of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them—a prequel of sorts to Harry Potter that takes place in the same universe—was fascinating enough, especially with J.K. Rowling penning the screenplay, but I’ll be honest: yesterday’s first images from the film made me straight-up giddy about a new semi-Harry Potter movie/story coming our way in 2016. Just seeing Eddie Redmayne in costume as a 1920s wizard, familiar wand in hand, sent my excitement through the roof, and that’s without even knowing the story of the movie!
The film is based on a book of the same name that Rowling wrote, but that book is more encyclopedic-like instead of a straight novel, so there’s been some question as to what the film’s story will entail, exactly. While Warner Bros.’ first idea was to do a faux documentary-style movie, Rowling had an entirely different take in mind which resulted in her first original screenplay.
The basic premise is that Redmayne plays Newt Scamander, an eccentric magizoologist, who comes to New York on his travels (with a trusty weathered case in hand) where he crosses paths with a number of other American folks from the Wizarding World. The folks at EW have the lowdown on what happens next, which sets up the premise of the entire film:
This case is one of those way-way-way-bigger-on-the-inside magical devices, and within are expansive habitats for a collection of rare and endangered magical creatures from Newt’s travels around globe. He discovers the American wizarding community is fearfully hiding from Muggles (who are called “No-Maj” in the States) and the threat of public exposure is an even graver concern than in the UK (remember the Salem witch trials?). Fantastic Beasts is the story of what happens when this uniquely skilled English wizard travels to wiz-phobic America and a variety of his creatures, some quite dangerous … get out of their case.
In true Rowling fashion, it appears she’s tackling another socially conscious subject within the confines of her insanely vivid wizarding world, which is fantastic. It’s also great to see that the American side of things will differ significantly from what we’ve come to expect from the UK-set characters. David Yates, who helmed the last four Potter films, directs Fantastic Beasts so there’s no doubt plenty of continuity, but I’m excited to see how things diverge.