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The bookish, geeky Newt – who we slowly learn was educated at Hogwarts 70 years before Harry Potter but not wholly successfully – has come to America in search of new magic animals.
But his arrival coincides with tensions high between the Magic Congress of the United States of America (handily and memorably shortened to Macusa) and what they insist on calling ‘no-majs’.‘Ah,’ says an initially confused Newt.
I was bowled over by the extraordinarily detailed depiction of Twenties New York and by Eddie Redmayne’s shy, floppily foppish performance as our new magical hero, Newt Scamander.
He’s the supposed author of the Hogwarts textbook, but here Rowling takes a deep breath and begins the task of turning him into a fully rounded character worthy of the five-film series apparently planned.
Redmayne’s mannered performance is certainly a big one, with the potential to irritate, but he’s trying to establish a big new character and will often have been acting opposite visual effects he couldn’t see.
And if the deliciously constructed, if not wholly original, final scenes don’t prompt a tear or two… Another week, another adaptation of a Philip Roth novel, and I have to say I’m rather enjoying them.The latest, Indignation (15), is set a decade or so before Ewan Mc Gregor’s Vietnam-era American Pastoral, in 1951, against the backdrop of the Korean War, which saw young American men once again being drafted… Which is good news for Marcus Messner (Logan Lerman), a hard-working, high-achieving Jewish boy from Newark, New Jersey, who has won a place at a small Ohio college.His over-protective parents can surely stop worrying…It’s largely thanks to them – and Rowling’s beautifully structured screenplay – that Fantastic Beasts is so much more than a film about silly-sounding, computer-generated animals.There are real human characters, with real human emotions too, alongside, it must be said, truly fantastic creatures that have been beautifully and wittily created and which are so much more fun than I was expecting.