Thoughts: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, by J.K. Rowling

And now for something completely different!

This was not on my list – I nicked it from my sister while we were in Amsterdam because I didn’t want to finish the book I was reading too quickly (failure, but oh well, more books!) – and I not only don’t read screenplays (are they even usually published?) but haven’t seen the film. So this is going to be a short one.

I don’t read or write screenplays, so I have no idea what they usually look like (I assume there’s an element of personal style to it, like comic scripts?) and I don’t know if Rowling altered this one for public consumption. I wouldn’t be surprised if she had, just because 99.9% of the audience are probably non-screenplay readers.

I actually found it really readable (another reason I wonder if she fleshed it out a bit) and easy to imagine how it might look as a film. I confess – I remember all the dream casting going on all over Tumblr when the film was first announced as a glint in the director’s eye, so my Newt looked like Richard Ayoade, and it was glorious. It was really cool to read it without having seen the film actually, to get the experience of a director deciding whether they want to make a film or not. I found myself thinking “How would I do that? How would I want this to look?” Really cool.

The story itself was solid. I was pleasantly surprised. As dark as the later Harry Potters, and as unafraid to deal with unpleasant topics. I was indeed fooled by the twist, as well. I thought I was being so clever 🙁 I always do though; I always fall for red herrings.

I had a lot of questions though, that a novel might have answered and that a film never could. I appreciated the fact that Newt didn’t know all the US wizard lingo straight off (are we really doing No-Maj though, like I mean really?), because this is the era when there was no easy way to experience anyone else’s language over the sea except by going there. But I found some of his disapproval of The American Way a bit rich. Oh, they’re so weird about their Muggles!

Are they, Newt? Are they really? Is the UK really that progressive on this? (I’m looking at you, Arthur Weasley!)

Oh, fine, this is during the rise of Grindelwald and maybe people weren’t so funny about magical bloodline purity and all that back then as a rule (outside Grindelwald’s followers), but as this is never clarified (and there’s no room for it to be) how can I know? Is it that likely that old-fashioned wizards would have been cool with the Muggles and then gone suddenly backwards because of World War Wizard? Their constant amazement that Muggles manage to get by at all, not to mention their not being even a little impressed, belies them having grown up alongside a Muggle civilisation developing technology at such a fast rate as we did in the 20th Century.

Or maybe Newt himself is just more used to Muggles, seeing as he travels so much and is involved with such rare creatures that he might not be able to afford doing everything in the best, most wizardly stealthy way. It would have been nice to get a bit of backstory. But again, film and books are different media, and it was not to be. And that’s fine.

I do want to see the film now though.

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