On the evening of Thursday October 13, at the Empire IMAX in London's Leicester Square, fans and members of the press were invited to attend the exclusive preview screening of the new film set in the Harry Potter universe, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
Set 70 years before the events of the eight Potter movies, Fantastic Beasts follows the course of action of a young Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) whose curiosity of researching and rescuing magical creatures brings him to New York. The world that screenwriter JK Rowling describes for us is different from the one we are used to. It is a world where No-Majs (American for Muggles) are threatened to be eradicated from the population.
“This is really a movie about segregation,” said Colin Farrell, interviewed via a live stream from Los Angeles. “It's not like the magic world we got used to with Harry Potter. In this world people with magic abilities are discriminated.”
Fans had gathered outside the cinema for hours, many of them dressed up as proper wizards. Magic wands and long, colourful dresses showed up in the queue and the whole atmosphere really felt like a dive into the magic world of Harry Potter once again.
As JK Rowling said on stage, watching the crowd cheering for her just before the screening: “This feels like the old times! I really loved writing the screenplay and I can’t wait to finish them all.”
Watching Jo Rowling show up and enter the fray along with the actors and director felt vibrant and unique. She appeared on the stage out of nowhere, saying how good it felt to be back and revealing how she was already finished with the script of the sequel (in the works for a 2018 release) and how she was about to start the third.
But when everyone thought that there would have been no other surprises, Harry Potter’s literary mother dropped the most unexpected news: “I think it’s not going to be a trilogy. I’m currently working on five movies!”
“The next movie,” director David Yates added, “is going to be set in another capital city.” No more New York, then.
The film's stars – Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler and Alison Sudol – entertainingly passed the baton as they expressed how they have felt about joining a family so large.
“There was this amazing opportunity and being able to do it with David [Yates] made this incredible adventure feel like a wonderful experience,” Redmayne said when asked what was it like to work with the man who directed the last four Harry Potter movies.
“I love David Yates' storytelling techniques,” said Alison Sudol. “He would tell us interesting facts about all the creatures of the movie and let us hear how they sound. He was able to take this huge epic scenario and bring it to a human level.”
Among all the difficulties that such a project can have, the hardest part is to live up to the legacy. Yates, however, felt no pressure: “(Previously) we would spend a month in the transposition of each book. This time, we are working with no books but with the person who created this universe. JK is very pragmatic, she really understands the difference between books and movies.”
The footage per se was the first 10 minutes of the movie, which showed nothing more than what we already knew from the trailers. Watching it in IMAX, however, truly made the difference. The setting seems to be truly remarkable – the crew behind the movie managed to recreate an accurate look and feel of the New York in the 20s.
One piece of information that broke off from the whole experience was the soundtrack. Maybe 10 minutes is a bit too little to judge, but it seemed like the music was there to play an important role rather than just to fill.
Fantastic Beasts’ general feeling was that the film might just have a bit too much of a lighter tone than the whole Harry Potter saga. Where The Philosopher's Stone already succeeded in appealing a much younger generation whilst still introducing a darker tone towards the end, we have yet to see if this new chapter will follow the same path.