My teenage years were punctuated by the release of Harry Potter novels. I read the first book in the summer between leaving primary school and starting a brand new secondary school – and year after year my birthday, at the beginning of the school holidays, coincided with the release of a new installment.
In fact, what I remember most about my 18th birthday – and this is a very revealing admission – was that a lot of my friends almost didn’t come. In our pre-social media world they were too worried about spoilers. (The final novel, ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’, had been released two days before and no one was willing to venture outside until all 607 pages had been read.) It’s probably not what the proud new owners of a valid ID should have been most worried about, but it’s a testament to how much these books meant to fans.
We were children when JK Rowling’s novel first hit bookshelves and, like Harry, Ron and Hermione, we were adults by the time she put down her pen. We were the original Potterheads. We knew Hogwarts as well as our own schools and could have got A*s in Harry Potter, had that been part of the A Level syllabus. But now we are all grown up. Our dream of getting a Hogwarts acceptance letter has been superseded by more adult desires that don’t include school uniforms, exam halls or house points. Which is why I was unsure about Rowling's new five-movie franchise.
But ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ is perfect for the generation who grew up with Harry Potter. It's a story about friendships and relationships. It's funny and knowing. There are jokes about sex. Newt, Tina, Queenie and Jacob are caught up in the difficulties of finding a career, getting their professional lives off the ground and of achieving their dreams – with money and the big old boring mess of reality getting in the way. (Hell, there's even a foodie who wants to leave his soul-destroying job and open a bakery start-up). The film is also about acceptance and openness – values at the heart of our Harry Potter generation.
The movie's dark moral message is about the danger of discrimination and repressing your true identity. Dumbledore, when he returns in the sequel, is tipped to be openly gay.
'Fantastic Beasts' has the charm of the Harry Potter series, but it’s grown up too. Like those who were ten in 1997 when the first Harry Potter book came out, Newt Scamander is 29. School is a distant memory and, instead, ‘Fantastic Beasts’ is concerned with the same thing we're concerned with: the struggle to find a place in the real world, magic or muggle.
'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them' is in UK cinemas November 18.