Michael Rosen: Why Eddie Redmayne’s Fantastic Beasts character doesn’t work

The children’s author says JK Rowling's new story doesn’t carry a convincing motivation for Eddie Redmayne’s Newt Scamander

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Author and former children’s laureate Michael Rosen has identified what he says is the crucial flaw in the Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them movie – Eddie Redmayne’s Newt Scamander doesn’t have much reason for doing what he does.

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Rosen, whose children’s story We’re Going on a Bear Hunt is a centerpiece show for Channel 4 this Christmas, said that the notion of a quest was crucial to the upcoming animated version of his story – but that it was, in his view, fatally absent in JK Rowling’s script for Fantastic Beasts.

“I have just seen Fantastic Beasts and all the way through it I was… thinking what are their motives, how did this get through Hollywood without any motives?” he said.

He told RadioTimes.com: “It’s very slight and compressed at the beginning. I felt watching it, you know Eddie Redmayne, you don’t actually have to be here. He wasn’t impelled with a quest. The strongest, most powerful element in science fiction and fantasy book is a quest, that’s the origin of it, it goes all the way back to Medieval Literature. You must have a quest.

“It didn’t appear to have much of a quest so it became a little bit like an encyclopedia of oddities, he kept pulling out another beast. Which is all right, it’s nice, it’s fine. But as an adult watching something like that I sort of wanted the quest.”

Rosen (below) was speaking to explain the adaptation of his children’s story We’re Going on a Bear Hunt which has been expanded from his original picture book. The book takes around four minutes to read and charts a simple search for a bear by a group of siblings in the Suffolk countryside. 

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In the TV version (but not the book) the children are on their own because the parents – voiced by Olivia Colman and Harry Potter actor Mark Williams – have to go and attend to the grandmother. She is recently widowed, and the children miss their granddad.

“So with [We’re Going on a Bear Hunt] we sat down and said what are their motives,” added Rosen.

“There are many stories in the book, the dog has a story, the baby has a story they all have a story. These were created by [illustrator] Helen [Oxenbury].

“With this one we sat down and asked what the motives are – which is where the bereavement aspect emerged. And there are various elbows, if you like, in the story. Elbows are the point where you turn and at every point you need to know why people do it, why you are turning. In ordinary narrative you need to know why.”

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We’re Going on a Bear Hunt airs on Channel 4 on Christmas Eve at 7:30pm