Those who grew up during the first times of Harry Potter were only aware of a wizarding school—and culture—thriving in the U.K. region. Over the years (and books), author J.K. Rowling began to release more countries, specifically around Europe, who had wizarding populations.
However, it wasn’t until the release of Rowling’s screenplay for “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” that she touched on details of the wizarding world in North America. Rowling went into remarkable detail on Pottermore.com under the four-part series titled “History of Magic in North America.”
“Fantastic Beasts” pulls long-time Harry Potter fans back in time to the heart of New York in 1926, with odd occurrences happening all around the city. The newly arrived Magizoologist (magic + zoologist) from England, Newt Scamander, played by Academy Award Winning actor Eddie Redmayne, arrives just in time to witness these happenings. Before Scamander can begin to delve into the wizard-like occurrences in the Muggle or No-Maj (non-magic) world, some of his “belongings” end up escaping from his magical suitcase and try to fit into the big city by means of extremely reckless behavior.
The idea for “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” came to Rowling from the short in-universe book she authored of the same name. Originally, the book was a textbook that Harry Potter and his classmates use in the Harry Potter series at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardy—one that Newt himself researched and wrote in 1927, years after his schooling at Hogwarts. Rowling created this quick-read book with her own illustrations and scribbles under the pseudonym Newt Scamander in 2001, along with “Quidditch Through the Ages” and “The Tales of Beedle the Bard” to raise funds for the U.K. based charity Comic Relief.
Redmayne’s portrayal of the young, almost-always-awkward Newt Scamander is utterly mind-blowing and beautiful. You don’t see him as the face of the actor Eddie Redmayne—you see him as the most caring, quick-witted, young magical-creature-loving wizard that he is. Two American wizards (played by Katherine Waterston and Alison Sudol) and a No-Maj (Tony Award winner Dan Fogler) join Newt on his journey in New York, as more twists and turns seem to unfold at every corner, leaving your eyes wide and your jaw dropped.
Along with marking the first screenplay debut of Rowling’s career and being directed by David Yates—who is known for his directing in the last four Harry Potter films—”Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” also marks a reunion for past Harry Potter and current Fantastic Beasts producers: David Heyman, Steve Kloves, and Lionel Wigram.
As the film progresses, the characters begin to develop at a rate close to perfection. New characters come into play (from actors Ezra Miller and Samantha Morton to Colin Ferrell and Johnny Depp), and more backstories are established, including hearing smidgens of the harrowing Gellert Grindelwald—an old friend of Albus Dumbledore turned dark wizard—who we only heard tales of in the Harry Potter series.
Rowling announced in October of 2016 that the “Fantastic Beasts” series would be comprised of five films. And after seeing this first one, there are more than plenty of storylines for Rowling to work her magic with, something she continues to do so seemingly effortless and with the utmost superiority.