BY ROGER THOMAS
The year was 1999. For Christmas that year a friend of mine gave me the first three “Harry Potter” books. I had become interested after reading an article in “Time” magazine about the phenomenon that was Potter. The week following Christmas I read all three of the books that were available.
I have continued to be a fan. I, or course, read all the books. I also anxiously awaited each new film. I liked all the adaptions. Most critics pick the third film, “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” as the best. I have always had difficulty choosing. I just know that the films are something special. There are fun, filled with laughs and tearful moments. There are a few scares along the way and a great deal of life lessons. My children have grown up with Harry, Ron and Hermione and few series of films have been watched in our home as many times as these.
Alas, the “Harry Potter” films are over. Unless, of course, they adapt Rowling’s recent “Harry Potter” play for the big screen. But for now, we have a new glimpse of the wizarding world.
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” is based on a small book Rowling wrote to define some of the creatures from her series of novels. The book, along with a screenplay by Rowling, have been used to make a plot for a new film about magic.
“Fantastic Beasts” is set in the 1920’s in New York City. A wizard named Newt Scamander, played by Oscar-winning actor Eddie Redmayne, comes to America at the beginning of the film. There he meets some magical Americans and some who are “no-mags,” none-magic people.
The story is filled with a big plot and too many small subplots plus plenty of opportunities for magic to abound. The film boasts great visual effects for the demonstrations of magic and the creation of New York from a bygone age. The look of the film is the greatest asset of the production.
There is also plenty of humor. Rowling has a gift for humor; that was evident in her seven novels. Both events in the film and specific characters offer many laughs along the way.
“Fantastic Beasts” is directed by David Yates who directed the last four Harry Potter films so he knows a lot about this world. The film would have probably been less in another directors’ hands.
But here is my struggle with the film. In the midst of a very busy movie, there are not the clear moments of true emotion that appear in all seven of the Potter films. I could make you a list of scenes that took my breath away in Harry’s adventures: the moment Harry found out he was a wizard, when Voldemort killed Cedric Diggory, the death of Sirius Black, the death of Professor Snape, the moment when Hermione and Ron finally kiss, the burial of Dobby, Harry defeating the Dragon, not to mention defeating Voldermort, and the list goes on and on.
Eight films, and every one of them had moments that inspired emotions of every sort. I never once felt that jolt while watching “Fantastic Beasts.” The filmmakers are planning more films; I hope they take a look at the great moments of the first eight films of Rowling’s world.
I started this review by describing the last week of December in 1999. There was more going on in our house than my reading of “Harry Potter.” My daughter was born December 21st, four days before I began reading the first of J. K. Rowling’s works. It was a wonderful time in my life. Harry Potter has given me many laughs and a few tears, and my now seventeen-year-old daughter loves the world of Harry Potter just like her father.