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Fantastic Beasts continue to romp across a magical landscape

PUBLISHED: 11:13 09 November 2018 | UPDATED: 11:13 09 November 2018

Johnny Depp joins the cast of the Fantastic Beasts movies as Gellert Grindelwald Photo: Warner Bros

Johnny Depp joins the cast of the Fantastic Beasts movies as Gellert Grindelwald Photo: Warner Bros

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The Harry Potter looks set to be expanded still further with the release next week of the second Fantastic Beasts movie. Arts editor Andrew Clarke takes a look at why the world of Harry Potter continues to blossom without him

Eddie Redmayne and Katherine Waterston in Fantastic Beasts, a new exploration of Harry Potter's wizarding world Photo: Warner BrosEddie Redmayne and Katherine Waterston in Fantastic Beasts, a new exploration of Harry Potter's wizarding world Photo: Warner Bros

In 2011 it appeared that the story of Harry Potter and our eye-widening adventures into his wonderful wizarding world had come to an end. After ten spectacular years the story was complete.

Author JK Rowling had jealously guarded her characters and her stories and with screenwriter Steve Kloves had made sure that the films embraced the magical quirkiness of her books and played out in a carefully constructed world which consistently created ground-rules to support the narrative.

Rowling knew that you can make the principal story as far out as you like as long as you anchor it in a consistent reality. You make your world real and by doing that you make the danger real and the threats to life meaningful – in an edge of the seat way.

Colin Farrell was part of the cast of the first Fantastic Beasts movie Photo: Warner BrosColin Farrell was part of the cast of the first Fantastic Beasts movie Photo: Warner Bros

They say that lightning doesn’t strike twice but it appears that JK Rowling maybe about to disprove that old adage when the second of her Fantastic Beasts movies opens next week. The first movie Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them (2016) returned us to the wizarding world after a gap of five years and introduced us to Newt Scamander, a magizoologist, played with diffident charm by Eddie Redmayne.

He found himself, an English wizard, in New York in the 1920s at the height of a strange wizarding prohibition. The keeping of magical creatures is forbidden as is friendship between witches and wizards and non-magic folk: “Muggles we call them,” says the rather bewildered Newt to the earnest Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), from the US state department version of The Ministry of Magic.

This new film series is not a sequel. Rowling is too clever to lock us into a world of heightened expectations and diminishing returns, instead she is exploring a new world, a world recognizable as being the same one that will one day provide a dangerous playground for Harry Potter, but one that exists in its own right.

The new Fantastic Beasts movies expand and explore new areas of JK Rowling's Harry Potter universe Photo: Warner BrosThe new Fantastic Beasts movies expand and explore new areas of JK Rowling's Harry Potter universe Photo: Warner Bros

She is cleverly taking us back in time, to a period when everything is a little bit more Heath Robinson and steam-punk. She is tapping into the back story and the research she did when first writing the Harry Potter novels. This is the history of the wizarding world. This is the wizarding world before Harry Potter.

The first film was an introduction to this world. An exploration of the wizarding world away from suburban England. It was an introduction to story-telling on a much larger canvas and took the story away from school and a young person’s environment. JK Rowling was acknowledging that her readers and her film audience had grown up and no longer had a place at Hogwarts. They were now, to the best of their abilities, making their way in the world – making mistakes and securing small victories as we all do.

This is the world of Newt Scamander, an ordinary person, trying to do what’s right and provide a safe world for his fantastic beasts to thrive in. In many ways he could be considered a magical David Attenborough.

JK Rowling joins the cast of Fantastic Beasts on set Photo: Warner BrosJK Rowling joins the cast of Fantastic Beasts on set Photo: Warner Bros

While the first movie established new characters and created an evocative period landscape for this new series of stories to take place in, the second film, again written by JK Rowling herself, will now seek to make connections to a world that will one day give birth to Harry Potter.

Based on a book, published to raise money for Comic Relief, Fantastic Beasts will not only properly introduce us to Grindelwald, played with bleached malevolence by Johnny Depp (and glimpsed at the end of the previous film), but will also give us the first glimpse of Hogwarts stalwarts Albus Dumbledore and Minerva McGonagall as young adults.

This is a series which promises to be as thrilling as the original stories because it refuses to retread old ground and wants to explore fresh horizons. It’s expanding the world of Harry Potter rather than going back over material that’s been done before.

It’s creating a fresh and exciting new universe – something different in a world where Hollywood would still prefer a by-the-number sequel. JK Rowling still knows how to create that sense of wonder.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald opens on November 16

Harry Potter’s Top Five Wizarding moments

The entrance to Diagon Alley is revealed – Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone

That sense of wonder is hard to forget as the bricks in the wall shift and re-arrange themselves to reveal a Dickensian paradise beyond.

The bludger attack on Harry – Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets

Quidditch is already a high risk sport, it’s airborne, played at high speed and on broomsticks but the stakes get higher when a bewitched metal ball gets fixated on Harry and crashes through the stands intent on killing him

The Dementors on the Train – Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry’s journey to school on the Hogwarts Express is usually full of light-hearted banter and chocolate frogs climbing up windows. This time Harry nearly has his soul sucked from his body by cowled figures who are searching for escaped prisoner Sirius Black.

Fighting The Death-Eaters – Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince

Christmas is ruined with the arrival of Lord Voldemort’s followers Bellatrix Lestrange and Fenrir Greyback at The Weasley’s home. A fierce battle commences leaving the audience breathless and on the edge of their seat.

Every appearance of Severus Snape – All the Harry Potter films

Alan Rickman was able to bring such nuanced menace to every scene he played. Never rushed, every syllable of every word appeared to be drawn out of him and then delivered with a malevolent sense of distaste. Each encounter in a hallway or in a potions class was a perverse delight.

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