My hardcover copy of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay by J.K. Rowling arrived on Friday, November 18th. I didn't start reading it right away, because I wanted to see the film in the theater first. (Beware of spoilers if you keep reading below.)
It has been many years since I last read J.K. Rowling's 2001 book titled Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, one of the two volumes she wrote for a charity project as Harry Potter's schoolbooks. I really had very little idea of what to expect when I saw the movie on Thanksgiving, other than a prequel to the Harry Potter series set in the 1920s.
The FBAWTFT film is set in 1926, to be exact.
We knew the main character was going to be Newt Scamander. When Harry Potter read Fantastic Beasts at Hogwarts, he knew Newt Scamander as the author of his textbook. We, the readers, had very little information about Newt - other than that he would be played by Eddie Redmayne. I remember Redmayne best as Marius Pontmercy in Les Miserables.
He is absolutely adorable as Newt Scamander.
Newt is a wizard visiting New York in the '20s. He has a suitcase with a virtual zoo inside, full of magical creatures. He's on his way to Arizona on a creature-related errand when he's distracted by an escapee: a niffler, a sort of platypus-mole that can't stop itself from hoarding shiny objects.
The real trouble begins when Newt crosses paths with a Muggle - or, as they're known to American wizards - a No-Maj. He's Jacob Kowalski, a WWI vet who works in a canning factory but aspires to opening his own bakery with his grandmother's recipes. Jacob is played by Dan Fogler. I wasn't familiar with him before this film, but he's adorable too.
Jacob's briefcase of sample pastries gets mixed up with Newt's case of beasts, causing the intervention of an American auror (magical law enforcement officer), Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston). When Jacob is bitten by a murtlap and takes ill, Tina decides to take him and Newt home for the night. She shares a room with her sister, Queenie (Alison Sudol).
Here, I swoon. American witches! JEWISH American witches!
American witches and wizards have, rather than a Ministry of Magic, the MACUSA (Magical Congress of the United States of America). MACUSA doesn't allow witches and wizards to marry No-Majs, ostensibly so the witches' code of secrecy isn't broken, so they can't be persecuted. But Queenie and Jacob start flirting almost immediately.
Newt and Tina have even more of a slow build. Newt is more socially awkward than Jacob. He does, however, keep a picture of Leta Lestrange in his creature case. We don't know how Leta is related to Bellatrix Lestrange - but presumably, she is. The actress portraying Leta in Newt's photo is Zoë Kravitz.
This will probably be explored further in the four sequels planned for this film. They're said to be taking us from 1926 all the way up to the end of World War II. Interestingly, Albus Dumbledore defeated Gellert Grindelwald in 1945, according to his chocolate frog card. Young!Albus doesn't appear in the FBAWTFT movie, but he is mentioned. He was Newt's teacher at Hogwarts and single-handedly kept Newt from being expelled over an undisclosed magical creature incident.
Will Young!Albus appear in the prequel sequels? Fingers crossed for yes.
All of this, plus the amazing creatures, are very good. But wait, there's more!
No-Majs aren't supposed to know that witches and wizards exist, but some of them suspect. The rough equivalent of Harry Potter's Aunt Petunia is Mary Lou Barebone (Samantha Morton). She heads the New Salemers, a religious group seeking to root out witchcraft in the U.S.A.
Mary Lou has two adopted daughters (one a child, one an adult) and an adopted son, Credence (an adult). Credence is played by Ezra Miller, whom I may remember from such series as Californication. [SPOILERS] Credence's biological mother was a witch, and Credence is both desperately trying to hide his natural magic from Mary Lou, who violently abuses him, and desperate to join the magical world. This is a recipe for disaster.
Credence serves as an informant for Percival Graves (Colin Farrell), a high-ranking auror and Tina's boss. Graves is looking for a magical child with legendary powers. Only the "child" isn't a child, but turns out to be Credence himself!
(We can suppose that Credence is in his early 20s. Ezra Miller is 24.)
And...MAJOR SPOILER HERE...Graves isn't actually Graves, but Grindelwald in disguise.
But oh! The interactions between Credence and Graves are so flirty. It seems Credence is repressing his sexuality as well as his magic. (Not such a stretch for Ezra Miller, who is pansexual.) And, I think, Grindelwald is using Credence's attraction to Graves for Grindelwald's own evil purposes.
But can I help it if real!Graves and Credence would make an incredibly sexy couple? I mean...
|Not my fan art. http://thatwritererinoriordan.tumblr.com/post/153820648360/para-dlse-i-want-to-eat-you|
I can't get "Gradence" out of my brain. They have pushed my Sherlock obsession almost completely out of my head.
And that was already starting to replace Destiel. By the way, as of today I can no longer say I've never watched a single episode of Supernatural. While babysitting my twin nephews this morning, I watched a 3-episode DVD with my 12-year-old niece. I learned God (a.k.a. Chuck) has a sister named Amara, a.k.a. The Darkness. Basically, the Supernatural universe is a duality, as in Zoroastrianism. Dean offered to sacrifice himself so God and the universe wouldn't die, and Castiel offered to go with him. That angel really does love that human. (Maybe in a platonic way. But maybe not.)
I digress. Still, the movie will not leave my brain alone. I was glad to have the screenplay at home waiting for me. It helped me catch some of the bits I missed in the theater. Especially that part where I had to take my niece to use the restroom. The screenplay was beautifully written, and it made me appreciate how well-acted the movie was.
And now I have read all of J.K. Rowling's books, except Very Good Lives.