Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them begins with an introduction – by way of dramatic effect – to our protagonist Grindelwald– via a montage of his villainous acts (for the novice, a montage is a series of moving shots, in this case; newspaper articles). It works well, however, I couldn’t help but desire more; I wanted to know the in and outs of the various atrocities and acts of terrorism previously performed, which in novel format, may well have been uncovered. In a screenplay, this type of background information is rarely required and largely,alluded to, particularly as the screenplay is theoretically a working document – what actors and crew use on set, thus overloading it with large sections of backstory etc is unnecessary for many who make use of the screenplay.
After this opening sequence we meet Newt Scamander; who I immediately took a liking to; perhaps due to J.K. Rowling’ characterization of a bumbling, typically English, slightly awkward fellow. He is one of the few characters within the screenplay who is afforded a more substantial character synopsis/description and it was hard for me though not to imagine anyone other than Eddie Redmayne playing Newt Scamander, which I shows how perfectly he’s been transferred from paper to screen.
J.K. Rowling proves to be a gifted comedy writer within the confines of the screenplay which further highlights her talented leap into screenplay writing; and without the expansive text available in novels, the dialogue in this screenplay had be laughing out loud. Such as:
NEWT puts his wand away. JACOB retches into the corner, while TINA looks at NEWT in disbelief.
I admit that is a slightly more severe reaction than I’ve seen,
but if it was really serious – he’d have…
Well, the first symptom would be flames out of his anus –
Terrified, JACOB feels the seat of his pants.
And another quirky scene I very much enjoyed;
INT. JACOB’S ROOM – AFTERNOON
TINA hurries inside to find NEWT, trying to look innocent and composed, sitting on the bed. He calmly seals the latches on his case.
It was open?
Just a smidge…
That crazy Niffler thing’s on the loose again?
Er – it might be –
Then look for it! Look!
J K Rowling has sprinkled enough magical Potter dust into the pages of this screenplay to ensure Harry Potter fans are not ignored. Evident references are made to the wider Harry Potter Universe, such as Newt’s Hufflepuff scarf, which hints that he once attended Hogwarts, and the photo of Leta Lestrange (http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Leta_Lestrange) that he carries within his beastly case. The reader is also privy to a conversation of his time at Hogwarts when he was interrogated by the MACUSA – Magical Congress of the United States of America.
J.K. Rowling is a supremely talented author; but the difference between a novel and a screenplay is vast; two entirely different writing styles, structure, narrative, and voice. But Rowling has accomplished the transition with genuine precision and care. Are we seeing her venture into the screenplay role because she’s been honing it for a while or that she just wants to test herself as a writer?
We also have to recognise the fabulous creative minds that she has surrounded herself with regarding the making of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. In the acknowledgements at the end of the screenplay J.K. Rowling speaks of Steve Kloves (who wrote every screenplay for the Harry Potter films), David Yates (who directed four of the Harry Potter films and also Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) and David Hayman (Producer). So the counsel from these sources has obviously paid off in dividends, allowing Rowling to generate one of the most beautiful screenplays I’ve ever had the pleasure to read.
The book is designed by Mina Lima, a studio founded by Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima who were graphic designers on ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ – from the attractive cover to the intricate tracks that litter the pages, each image is beautifully simplistic. Expanding the magical world across the Atlantic to the 1920’s Jazz age America, the images are inspired by the Art Deco style and hint towards the creatures within; all of which were drawn by hand which is a rarity in a principally computer based world. But all of these extra touches elevate this book into a whole new realm of fresh fiction – which I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of in the future.
‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ has a strong moral voice; which is hinted at with regards to how Wizards and Witches are living in a delicate balance –the magical fascism undertone is extremely relevant to the world we live in today, with hateful speech and high tension directed at those who are compared different in society.
As the story develops we are introduced to many supporting characters who will certainly appear in other ‘Fantastic Beasts’ films; one of the best being Jacob (played by Dan Fogler), who fulfills our comical requirements with aplomb and vigour. In the screenplay version there are central characters (Mary Lou and her adopted children Credence, Chastity and Modesty)that I didn’t warm to in the slightest. Apart from our lead characters, those on the periphery are not afforded much room for development and in the end I didn’t really care about any of them or their fates. It’s a slight grievance, as I’m sure Rowling would have delved deeper into their circumstances which would have made them more rounded characters.
There are incredible action sequences within the screenplay and one noteworthy scene takes place within the Blind Pig club. Whilst reading I couldn’t help but think of the Cantina bar in Star Wars, as we view a rogue’s gallery of villainous Wizards, Witches and Mythical creatures. There’s alsoa wonderful encounter with a fully-grown Occamy (I’ll leave it as a surprise) thatwould look superb on-screen; but within the pages of the script it could easily be lost, stumbling over scene directions.
So is the screenplay itself a fresh idea? Yes I would say it is, but I would also say that Rowling’s decision to release the story in this format was probably due to the popularity of ‘The Cursed Child’play that was released recently.Does it work? I think screenplay format works and its here to stay but I feel it may divide some of the more hardcore Harry Potter fans who are used to the in-depth world and details that Rowling normally creates in her own cinematic way. It’s a lot less wordy than a regular Harry Potter novel; which may appeal to younger readers who are stepping into the big world of fiction or Harry Potter for the first time.
Let’s face facts, Rowling could sit back and milk the Harry Potter cow for the rest of her life; and the fans would keep lapping it up. But what I love about ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,’ is that she has invented another rich domain that can easily turn into the next big book/film franchise (IMDB says that David Yates is down to direct FBAWTFT 1-5). ‘Fantastic Beasts’has also brought new fans flocking to the forefront, all without a pubescent Wizard or Witch in sight.
It’s a very brave, bold and daring choice of J.K. Rowling to release this installment as a screenplay and personally it’s a masterstroke from someone who knows exactly what she is doing. The book itself is wonderful(if you can get your head around reading it in screenplay format) I’d highly recommend it. I feel strongly that it’s not the last screenplay we will see packaged and delivered in this format from J. K. Rowling. I do also hope to see an actual novel shortly and on this evidence, I’ll be purchasing that also, if for anything, just to see what Rowling delivers in the safety and comfort of the novel.
Fantastic Beasts was published by Bloomsbury Publishing and Little Brow Books
Discover more about Bloomsbury Publishing and Little Brown Books below..
Review by Ross Jeffery
Read more of Ross Jeffery‘s reviews:
Fates of the Animals by Padrika Tarrant
The Trees by Ali Shaw
Dodge and Burn by Seraphina Madsen
Read Ross Jeffery‘s interviews:
Or check out:
Top 14 Horror Books
For more book reviews click here…