Saturday 19th Nov 2016
At 12.01am on 18 November 2016, fans clutched their popcorn in preparation to watch Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them for the very first time. Pottermore couldn’t resist being there to see it with them.
Before the movie even started, people were excited. IMAX employee Gary stood at the front of the cinema, at the bottom of the biggest cinema screen in London, to issue a few warnings about mobile phones and piracy. As he did, fans got restless. One gentleman at the back stood up and whooped intermittently, unable to sit still. The girls in front of us, wrapped in Hogwarts scarves of various colours and allegiances, giggled and whispered.
The most delightful sense of anticipation filled the room, like everyone there had been waiting for this moment since 2011, when Deathly Hallows – Part 2 ended the Harry Potter film experience.
A few bars of Hedwig’s Theme played before the Fantastic Beasts titles appeared on screen, blending into the new theme song. Squeals of delight and nostalgia rippled through the crowd. It was an emotional moment: our official return to the wizarding world.
Throughout the film, people laughed and gasped at all the right moments. When Newt Scamander first appeared there was an audible, ‘Awww.’ The same when the Niffler got in trouble for the first (but not last) time. Giggles were generous and joyous at every comedic turn, especially when No-Maj Jacob did, well, anything.
The first time we ventured into Newt’s case there were genuine sounds of awe from the audience – and rightly so, because that sequence is magnificent. But perhaps the best moments for the strangers sitting in the dark last night came whenever a spell was cast.
Whenever someone raised a wand there were gasps and, as I found out afterwards, tears. Many tears. There was a serious feeling that, right then, the thing we needed most in the world was to see wizards and witches in action. It was the right escapism at the right time.
Now, I’m not going to take you through the movie laugh by laugh, gasp by gasp, because it’s only just come out and it wouldn’t be fair to you, to spoil parts of the plot. So, I’ll take you right to the end of the film, straight to the credits and out into the foyer again, where I milled about, chatting to fans to get their verdict on Fantastic Beasts. We’ve heard what the critics think; now it’s time to hear what the diehard fans thought. Here are a few fan reviews:
‘I’m going to tell you something. I loved it more than the Potter films. I really did. It felt more adult and more suspenseful and I loved every second of it.’
‘I wasn’t expecting to love it as much as I did. I didn’t think anything could ever be as magical as the original movies, but this was really good. And being in New York was so much fun! I’ve never been, but now I sort of feel like I have.’
‘I just love Newt Scamander. He reminds me of Neville Longbottom, in the sense that they’re both underdogs. I love an underdog. I really identify with him, he’s my new favourite and I can’t wait to see what he does next.’
‘I loved Jacob and Queenie! They’re so sweet!’
‘I was in it for the beasts. We spent a lot of time up close with those beasts and that made me very happy. Going into Newt’s suitcase was the best part for me, I felt like the magical world was back again and that’s what I’ve been waiting for, for years.’
So, the reviews are in: Harry Potter fans love Fantastic Beasts. They loved it, they left, they went to sleep at 3am for the love of magic.