Fans of the Harry Potter universe REJOICE and WEEP. Now seek psychiatric counsel to help sort out those bi-polar symptoms! Entertainment Weekly has just released a first look at the upcoming Potter prequel, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Collectively, the Potterverse sent up sparks of jubilation from their wands at the tantalizing prospect of re-entering a world we all fell in love with years ago. And while a return to the Wizarding World should be welcomed by every human being with a tender heart, there are reasons to be reticent about accepting this new entry outright. At the very least, there are factors to be aware of when deciding just how floored to be about this new film.
So, without further delay, here are the reasons to REJOICE & DREAD Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, followed by a few helpful tips to orient the mindset and expectations of our beloved fanbase.
First we shall begin with the positive. At first glance, what isn’t to like!? We’ve already established that this is a return to a world that affects something warm and longing in each of us, so most fans would give their first-born to get it back. (That includes me. Tough luck, future child!)
#1 The Queen Reigns
Additionally, the entire script has been penned by her Majesty, The Queen of the Wizarding World, J.K. Rowling. This may be Rowling’s first ever official screenplay, HOWEVER she has more experience with the format than almost any other novelist due to her close collaboration with former Potter scribe, Steve Kloves. Obviously the only thing better than having the original author approve of your screenplay is having them write it personally.
#2 The Duke
At the helm of the film is none other than The Duke of the Wizarding World, David Yates! A very brief history lesson for those with hunkered eyebrows: David Yates was the director in charge of herding the last four, COUNT EM’, “FOUR” HP films to the screen. Outside of Rowling, Kloves and one other gent who we shall speak about momentarily, Yates may have the firmest grasp on the Potter Universe.
#3 The Baron
The other gentleman that I just referenced so cryptically is Stuart Craig.
Ah, yes. I see I must once again address the few who may be baffled. (The rest of you, deal with it.)
Simply put – Stuart Craig is the one who took the Potter world from the page and made it a reality. Craig was the Production Designer on every single HP film, which means that HE is the one who designed the Hogwarts that you know and love today. He took Rowling’s descriptions of Hogsmeade and the Dursley’s and the Weasley’s and every other setting and location that made it from the book into the movie and turned it into the imagery that is permanently impressed upon your mind.
Now he has been unleashed upon 1920’s New York City! Just imagine the results! To temper my geeking out with objectivity, it’s obvious that a man of that talent and skill partnered with Yates & Rowling will do a top notch job of aesthetically detailing this new section of the Potterverse.
# 4 The Cast
Well, Eddie Redmayne is obviously the first name we’ll mention. The filmmakers have to be thrilled that they can now stick “Oscar Winner” in front of his title card on the trailer. And frankly, after playing a completely paralyzed astro-physicist (Theory of Everything) and a 1920’s trans-gender (The Danish Girl), Newt Scamander should be a walk in the park for his talents. The cast also boasts Colin Farrell (wut), Ron Perlman (WUT), Ezra Miller (WWUUTT), and Jon Voight (ok). But playing the role of close friend Porpentina Goldstein is Katherine Waterston, who you may know from Boardwalk Empire, or the recent Steve Jobs. A healthy mixture of respected names and fresh talent is a formula we’ve seen before in the HP franchise and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them seems to be no exception.
#5 The New Setting.
1920’s New York City seems like a great place to set this film. The energy and possibilities they will glean from it appear limitless. Couple that with ability to take the film from “otherworldly” to “crushingly real” like the last series and you’ve got yourself a great place for a story! Also without all the doom and gloom of horcruxes and avada-kedavra-ing, this film could just be a blast to watch. It could feel more like a summer release than that late November we were used to.
So we are all set! This should be a slam dunk, right? Well…
Alright, this isn’t meant to get all huffy and nettlesome but there’s a reason why pessimists are sometimes called realists (alright, they call themselves that, but you get it). Let’s take a long and unbiased look at the other facts. First up is the obvious one.
This appears to be a money grab by the studios.
You don’t just walk away from a franchise that made $7,726,174,542 worldwide. That kind of cash is hard to ignore, and the audience is still there for it, so heck, LET’S MAKE ANOTHER ONE! Now, construing this as a cash grab in and of itself does NOT give reason to DREAD – it’s what happens to movies that are made as a result of these sort of cash grabs.
When a cash grab occurs, typically the story or premise for making the next movie in the franchise is irrelevant. It doesn’t particularly matter to the studio whether the film needs to be made, thus, problems on the story front begin to arise. Obviously I’m not inside the studio executive’s head, I’m just stating what is apparent to me from history.
Some recent examples include The Hobbit trilogy and Jurassic World. These were franchises that, because of the success of their predecessors, were nearly guaranteed monetary successes. In these particular cases, the detriment was that the best story in those universes had already been told and, despite this, there was clear evidence that heavy mining was occurring in order to find anything which could bring an audience back into the theater. These 2 franchises also have ‘The World‘ boon that the HP series has going for it. People love “Middle-Earth” and the…uh…”Jurassic World.” Fans adore those universes and just wanted to return to them, no matter what the cost.
Let me just saying something as an HP lover: It’s ok to love the universe, but reject what is being put in front of you. A story that is set in the world that you love but not worth telling may cause you to begin to resent those involved as well as tarnish the legacy of that wonderful world.
#2: A Worthy Story
Since we are on story we also have to look at another attribute that this film holds. It is technically a “prequel,” not an “origins” story; though there can be crossover elements, please don’t confuse the two. Since Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them falls into the category of “prequel,” it follows to look at the success of former entries from a critical perspective. We can once again call upon The Hobbit franchise, Prometheus, The Scorpion King, etc. These are films that had a very difficult time telling a relevant story. In each case the story with the most drama had already been illustrated, and these films struggle to go back in time to, more or less, set up an issue that has already been solved.
This author’s personal opinion is that it is best to tell a story, and then move ahead in time. This is why Harry Potter: The Cursed Child and even Star Wars: The Force Awakens holds a bit more interest for me. If Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them doesn’t have a good reason to exist, fans will recognize it right out of the gate and it may be a good reason to begin to DREAD. HOWEVER! While it retains the title of “prequel” it does not appear that Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them is operating under that exact same premise, which is a good thing. It appears to be a story that is not directly affiliated in any way with the original HP line, which I would consider a boon. But the moment characters begin to reference “He Who Must Not Be Named” or the story tries to shoe-horn in younger versions of Dumbledore or McGonagall, it risks slipping into kitchsy self-reference.
#3: A “Mad” Queen Reigns
Here comes my “Rowling may be going to far”, theory.
This is my final, and potentially ludicrous, reason to dread this prequel. She may be going “Lucas” on us, and not necessarily in a malicious way, but she may be stuck in this universe to the point of its detriment. Her revelations in the past few years since the HP series left theaters have left some fans annoyed and frustrated wishing she would stop tampering with their perceptions. Already, people have been exasperated or even outraged that the American slang for “Muggle” is “No-Maj” (pronounced “no madge”). This story will be full of creative changes coming straight from Rowling, and if the fans can’t get onboard with that, it may be a good reason to start DREADING this movie.
So here are some things the audience should know in order to keep our expectations in check, that we may better enjoy the film when it is released. (We also have a little piece to help you manage your expectations of other movies here.)
(No clue if that reference works)
#1: This film will not be Harry Potter.
I don’t believe there is any way this story could ever reach the emotional magnitude of the HP series. We, as lovers of this universe, have a fair idea of the world’s history and the events therein. The final battle with Voldermort is the greatest story to be told to that point. Hopefully by going backwards, the filmmakers have elected not to try and top that story emotionally, but to go in a different direction altogether. If this is the case, we as the audience must be prepared for an entirely different tone. It will be important to HP lovers that the world feel the same. (For feel see below)
#2: A warning. There is no Hogwarts or Hogsmeade or London.
Off the bat this film may not FEEL like the series you fell in love with and it may take some getting used to. If you intend to enjoy this film, it may require patience because familiarity is unlikely. (And if they should rely on familiarity it may turn into campy winks)
At the end of the day, we are all excited about the prospect of more adventures in this delightful universe. I think that whether we enjoy this film or not will largely be based on making sure we take only what the filmmakers give us. Let “No-Maj” go, and prepare yourself for new concepts and new ideas. Don’t mistake that encouragement for directions to delude yourself into thinking the film is good if it is actually abysmal, but let these reasons to REJOICE and DREAD give you ammo in your mental assault on expectations. At the end of the day, after all, we all want what’s best for the franchise.