Monday, June 12, 2017

Book Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Screenplay by J.K. Rowling

Title: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay
Author: J.K Rowling
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Date Published: November 18th, 2016

Intro and Summary: A quick and fun read, Rowling's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay adds to the current, and expansive, Harry Potter universe. Set in 1920's New York City, the screenplay, released the day after the film's premier, follows Newt Scamander, a magizoologist who makes a brief stop in the United States. While there, some of Scamander's fantastic beasts escape, causing trouble and creating friendships in the Big Apple.

Spoiler Alert: The remainder of the review will feature spoilers. 

Review: I have long been an avid fan of the Harry Potter series (#Ravenclaw), and the books played an important part in my development as a reader. In fact, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is the first book I recall reading (other than picture books), and I was not allowed to see the movie until I finished reading it. I still remember rocking my bright blue Harry Potter pajamas featuring young Daniel Radcliffe and Hedwig as my grandpa drove us to the theater -- I finished the final chapter as we pulled into the parking lot. That said, I was excited to finally find the time for Rowling's first foray into screen writing. I read this without first seeing the movie, so this review will focus primarily on the text itself.

I had never read a screenplay before reading this, but it read very similarly to a play, and I cannot help but to think of The Cursed Child. Of course this is a screenplay, and it was written for the silver screen, though I think this created problems for both characterization and pacing. Textually speaking, there was a distinct lack of character depth, and I walked away from this reading slightly disappointed, especially because these characters have so much potential. Still, after watching the movie, much of the development and empathy for the characters was developed onscreen -- the text definitely benefited from the wonderful film. I'm excited to see where these characters go in the series. The pacing was also problematic for me, as the world and plot lacked development, and the story got too big too quickly. The story's magic and imagination helped overcome these developmental issues, however.

While I consider myself a Harry Potter nerd, I knew very little (if anything) about Gellert Grindelwald heading into the reading. Because the screen play starts with a sharp focus on Grindelwald, I was expecting him to be more involved in the plot, but he seems to be dismissed as soon Newt enters -- it's not until the very end that Graves is revealed to be Grindelwald. Again, the lack of character development (especially Grindelwald's) and depth overall proved to be disappointing.

That said, I still found the screenplay to be a joy to read. The 1920's NYC setting is absolutely fun, and provides a whole new world for Rowling to build. Newt's case of fantastic beasts provides the series with outstanding promise, and I am excited for more magical and imaginative creatures in the future.

Overall, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Screenplay may have been improved if written as a novel, but it's still a fun incursion into the fantastic Harry Potter universe. Give it a read and check out the movie if you haven't already.

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

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