“Fantastic Beasts is very much in the spirit of the Potter books … as with all of Jo [Rowling]’s work, it’s not soft.”
NO MAJOR SPOILERS
The screenplay certainly follows in Harry Potter’s footsteps, Muggles, Wizard Congresses and all. The twist of course is that the action is set in and around New York before the Depression with Newt looking for a very rare beast and being tracked by the powers that be, magical and otherwise.
He has with him a shape shifting suitcase filled with magical creatures that spill over. Since this is America he has the American authorities, the Magical Congress of the United States of America, and a discredited member of theirs named Tina hot on his heels.
The title comes from a slim book that came out while the Harry Potter series was still spinning itself out, so there are some set rules to the whole thing, though not very many since Rowling has the freedom to draw out her plots any way she chooses. However while being translated into film one should be aware of the slight differences between page and screen.
The story is that of an underground operation with two sets of opposing forces – those of dark and light magic – and the unaware nomaj population (non magic, the American version of Muggles) at loggerheads. Unsurprisingly a war of sorts is brewing and there is a witch burning community called Second Salem to heighten the hostilities. Multiple story strands exist to be twined together.
Fantastic Beasts has very few children in its pages and is far darker and more political than the Harry Potter series – even though the darkness was growing in the last few books. Rowling has been all over social media comparing politicians both English and American and their policies to those in her books so perhaps the overt politicisation of Fantastic Beasts should not come as a surprise. The subtext here is strong – whether it is issues of discrimination, racism or otherwise and Fantastic Beasts cannot exist without that real world frame of reference which was not so strong in the Harry Potter series.
Added 28th December 2016