More Wizard Fun

My teenage daughters are eagerly awaiting the new movie set in the world of Harry Potter, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, directed by David Yates. I can’t pretend I’m not looking forward to it myself too. Although the official Canadian release date is Nov 18, The Civic Theatre has managed to score a sneak preview on Thursday Nov 17, with more showings over the weekend.

Harry Potter Books

It seems hard to believe, but the first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, came out nearly 20 years ago. The other six books in the series were released over the following ten years. We started reading them aloud as a family when my oldest daughter turned 11, the same age as Harry in the first book. We attempted to keep pace with Harry as he moved through the years at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, but such was the fevered anticipation of my daughters for the next instalment that we had to increase the reading pace. I fondly recall evenings in our family tent while camping, the girls quivering with excitement, imploring my wife to read them just one more chapter before going to sleep.

Harry Potter Movies

We were a little more successful in saving watching the movies until after we’d read the corresponding book. We managed to space the movies out, at least initially, generally watching one a year during the winter holidays. The final movie in the Series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, came out in 2011, and in the five years since, my daughters have had to get their Harry Potter fix by re-reading the books, re-watching the movies, and going on The Making of Harry Potter studio tour in England a few years ago.

Prequel Series

And now there is a new five-part prequel film series to look forward to, the first of which is Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. As with many major Hollywood “tentpole movies,” it’s difficult to get much in the way of a critical evaluation of the movie ahead of its release. The previews indicate a style much in keeping with the last four Harry Potter films, which were also directed by David Yates. J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, wrote the screenplay for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which is inspired by her novel of the same name. That novel is referenced in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, where it is one of Harry’s required text books, a compendium of magical creatures written by “magizoologist” Newt Scamander. For the movie, J. K. Rowling has developed a story based around Scamander’s research on said magical creatures.

The movie is set in New York City in the 1920s. Scamander, played by Eddie Redmayne, who won a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of brilliant physicist Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything (2014), arrives in New York having rescued a bunch of magical creatures, storing them in a leather case, presumably using the same kind of magic as Hermione Granger’s undetectable extension charm on her purse. Of course the creatures are accidentally released, which leads to Scamander joining forces with witch sisters, Tina and Queen Goldstein, and “no-maj” (non-magical) Jacob Kowalski. Their quest to retrieve the creatures becomes more complicated, however, when the Magical Congress of the United States of America and the Second Salemers (fanatical no-majs who wish to eradicate the wizarding community) become involved.

Hovering in the background of all these goings-on is the dark wizard, Gellert Grindelwald, played by none other than Johnny Depp, who I suspect will be the main focus of the next movies in this series. Although he’s credited in the cast for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, I’m guessing his appearance here might be as fleeting as Luke Skywalker’s in Star Wars Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015). Harry Potter fans will know of Grindelwald’s history with Albus Dumbledore and, given that Dumbledore is scheduled for an appearance in later films in this series, it’s a fair bet that this history will be further developed.

Iain Pardoe is an online university instructor who enjoys the movies of Hayao Miyazaki even more than the kids and loves rewatching favourites from his youth with his family when he’s not playing soccer or skiing.