CITY PRESS REVIEW: Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them

Eddie Redmayne in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. (Warner Bros)
Eddie Redmayne in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. (Warner Bros)

Johannesburg - Sometime in the middle of the seven Harry Potter books, author JK Rowling wrote two slim books called Quidditch Through the Ages and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. They were not specifically about Harry Potter and his friends, but were fun supplementary volumes that added and expanded on the magical realm of wizards – sort of like The Silmarillion did for The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Not to pass up on a good franchise opportunity, Warner Bros has now turned Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them into a five-part movie series of its own, with an original screenplay created by Rowling herself.

It stars the incredibly likable Eddie Redmayne as magizoologist Newt Scamander, who accidentally lets a host of (mostly harmless) magical creatures loose in New York in 1926.

Along with Nifflers, Murtlaps, Erumpents and Bowtruckles, we come to learn about dark and dangerous creatures called Obscuri – parasitic, cloud-like balls that form and latch on to childhood wizards and witches who have been forced to suppress their powers.

This could, for instance, be a wizard child who lives in a Muggle (non-magic human) community that sees these powers as evil. The Obscurus eventually takes over the child and turns him or her into an Obscurial – a dark, brooding cloud prone to violent outbursts.

I couldn’t help but think that, in a way, we all have the potential to become Obscurials. Anyone who suppresses themselves – who doesn’t manifest who they really are, runs the risk of becoming deeply depressed or even harmful to themselves. This can be anything as simple as not being in the job or relationship you want to be in, or more serious issues such as being unable to express your sexuality. And that has been the real magic of Rowling’s work and why it is so popular – it uses fantastical creations as metaphors for real issues.

Unfortunately, like many effects showcases (including the recent Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children), Fantastic Beasts sometimes forsakes character-building and story line for aesthetics. However, the film is lush and Rowling-esque enough – with plenty of wonderfully animated fantastic beasties – to satisfy Potter fans.

Look out for an appearance by Johnny Depp at the end, a hint at what’s to come in the second film, which is set for release next November.