We learn a little more about JK Rowling’s newest protagonist Newt Scamander in the new Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them featurette “A New Hero.”
The film takes place in New York, 1926, when a self-proclaimed magizoologist Newt Scamander stops in New York after traveling the world learning about magical creatures. While there, he runs into a No-Maj (American term for Muggles, or non-magic people), named Jacob who opens Newt’s case of magical creatures that are then set loose upon New York.
“My heroes are always people who feel themselves to be set apart, stigmatized, or othered,” Rowling says in the featurette. “That’s at the heart of most of what I write, and it’s certainly at the heart of this movie.”
Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) seems to embody that same kind of ordinariness that Harry Potter often did before he stepped into his hero role, and I imagine the same will happen to Newt. Newt seems to be a fascinating character, one that “relates more to his creatures than to people,” Redmayne says, which fits perfectly into Rowling’s comments above. The more I see of this film, the more excited I am not just to rediscover the wizarding world in an entirely new light, but to grow as attached to these new characters as I was to Harry, Ron and Hermione. Redmayne’s quiet, open-eyed demeanor in every one of these clips endears the character of Newt to me even more.
Along with Newt, there’s some glimpses of the magical creatures. Though we met plenty of different creatures in Harry Potter, this film looks to delve more into the ones we haven’t, as I didn’t recognize any in the footage. Although, there is a beautiful shot of what looks to be a Phoenix, though a blue and green colored one. Could be a peacock. I’m just speculating.
The only thing that I’m still weary of is the plot of the film, which seems to generally be a giant macguffin plot (i.e. all the magical creatures Newt loses in New York). There is a lot of footage that looks political — as in a lot of government buildings and even what looks to be the inside of the Ministry of Magic. Hopefully, the cultural differences hold some weight in the movie, because the idea of differing wizarding ideals fascinates me to no end. We got to see a bit of this in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire with the two other wizarding schools showing up at Hogwarts, but I never felt we got to fully explore how those cultures were different in the context of the wizarding world. At the end of the featurette, Rowling says that whatever is going on in this film, it has implications for the whole wizarding world.
I imagine a scavenger hunt for magical creatures is just the start of it then? Throw in some butterbeer and I’m down.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is directed by David Yates and releases wide in 2D and 3D in select theaters and IMAX November 18.