Hannah Parker

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: Can it live up to Harry Potter?

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As if we needed another reason to wish the Wizarding World was real, 2016 is happening. This year so far has seen Britain split in two. It’s seen America protesting over the most controversial presidential election so far. And it all began with the likes of David Bowie, Alan Rickman, and Prince passing away. People need escapism even more now than ever. Enter Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

In the muggle world, before Daniel Radcliffe was born, there was Eddie Redmayne. In the magical world, before Harry Potter, there was Newt Scamander. On November 18 2016, we’ll be thrust back into the Wizarding World, and it seems to have come along at the most perfect time. However, whether this new adventure could live up to Harry Potter’s story is yet to be seen. Although, it’s safe to assume there will be plenty of people all over the world excited to see more of this magic realm.

Porle Miller, a writer and MA graduate at the University of Sunderland is just one of these people: “I’m pleased that the HP franchise is continuing in one form or another. To me, it’s now an important part of our culture and could, (just like Star Wars) be continued in various forms, giving fandom an insight into other aspects of Rowling’s world.”

A Harry Potter fanatic, Rebecca Daurat from Sunderland also expressed her excitement: “It feels like forever since a Harry Potter film was in the cinema. Based on the trailer, it looks like it’s going to be just as magical!”

If the cast is anything to go by, it has the potential of being a huge success; Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) leading, with support from the likes of Colin Farrrell (Phone Booth) and Katherine Waterston (Steve Jobs). If anyone is to take over Radcliffe as the beloved British wizard, “Redmayne is THE name right now, and seems a good choice, certainly an audience grabber” Miller claims.

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This seems to be the general opinion around Redmayne, with a fan that has grown up with the Harry Potter franchise stating: “I love the casting. I’m a huge fan of Eddie Redmayne.” Hannah Colley, a media graduate from Whitley Bay carried on by saying: “He was brilliant in The Theory of Everything so I hope he is as good in Fantastic Beasts.”

There has recently been even more excitement – and some controversy – from fans, and J.K. Rowling (creator of the Harry Potter books), with the announcement of Johnny Depp (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) joining the franchise.

It has been revealed that Depp will be playing Gellert Grindelwald. Although, the recent allegations of abuse towards his wife, added to the questionable film choices he’s made in recent years, is making some fans disappointed in this casting.

However, there are also plenty of fans that are much more positive about what Depp could bring to the magical world: “I’m so excited to see Johnny Depp as Dumbledore’s (theorised) lover! There seems to be people not excited about him being in the Potter franchise but he is the best so I’m really excited for him to play Grindelwald.” said Daurat.

Another Twitter member, @nikky__b tweeted about the Sweeney Todd star:

Another tweet confirmed more positivity from @Tekler08:

Grindelwald was talked about in Harry Potter as one of the most dangerous wizards of all time, next to Voldemort. The main intrigue of this character, however, is the relationship he had with Dumbledore, with the speculation of romance between them. It also raises the question of whether we’ll be introduced to a younger Dumbledore at some point during the five projected films in this series.

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Unlike the Harry Potter films, this story isn’t strictly taken from previously written books. Although it’s based on another piece of J.K. Rowling literature, it has no storyline. The book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them simply gives an introduction to all magical creatures existing in this fictional world.  However, Rowling has written the screenplay for the second film. She may also be doing the same for others in the saga.

We are being introduced to the stories and characters in the first film, without having read about them already. Because of this, the anticipation and excitement isn’t on the same level as it was for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Miller, who has created plenty of fictional worlds for his own radio drama’s, talks about this being an issue, with the connection between audience and characters not yet apparent: “Fantastic Beasts hasn’t had the same gestation period that HP had; bonding with characters in the same way fans did with Harry etc. takes a long time. Years. So possibly reaction won’t be as warm at first.”

There is also the sense of less advertising, potentially due to the fact that the book didn’t have the same impact. Or, because this is the first instalment, the production company may have held back slightly. Colley claims: “I don’t feel like it’s been advertised enough for me to be super enthusiastic for it coming out.”

However, the impressively awesome effects shown in the trailer prove the director, David Yates, is going even bigger this time around. In the current day of cinema, CGI is moving so fast that some films (Man of Steel, Godzilla) have been accused of focussing more on this than the basics of movie-making; character progression, story-telling, connecting with the audience etc. But, if used right, this can take a movie from great to spectacular. “In the days of CGI and big-budget, there’s nothing to stop the film coming alive in cinema” Miller declared.

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A beautifully elegant owl, Hedwig, and a largely misunderstood Hippogriff, Buckbeak, are just some of the creatures we’ve already been introduced to. If they’re anything to go by, we’re in for some extraordinary sights for the eyes. And with an impressive cast, and a trailer that looks out of this world, the film is certainly set to be full of magical awe.

Can it match the seven brilliant Harry Potter films? Well, most fans think it can. And, with the same director, and Rowling involved in the writing, it’s certainly got the potential to take us out of 2016 and back into the world we’ve grown to love.

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