Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Movie?
First, let’s get one thing straight: I am a HUGE Harry Potter fan. (Yes, that does warrant a bold, underline, and italic.) I wear my Ravenclaw house sweater and tie as regular apparel. Never once have I lost a Harry Potter trivia challenge, much to the dismay of countless challengers. I have read each book no less than 13 times, own both the American and original British versions, and can recite Chapter 1 of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone completely from memory.
So, naturally, you would think that the announcement of a new Harry Potter movie would put me on the next flight to Cloud 9.
But honestly, my reaction was more…confused.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a required textbook for first-year students, primarily used for the Care of Magical Creatures class. However, as students cannot elect to take Care of Magical Creatures until year three, it is still a bit of a mystery as to why it’s required in year one. Perhaps they just want students to be familiar with the material and begin to think about electives for year three. Or perhaps it was used in Defense Against the Dark Arts, Potions, or Astronomy (different constellations in the wizarding world for mythical beasts?). Or perhaps Rowling had incredible foresight and created a book that she felt could later be adapted into a movie after cashing in on the normal book adaptations.
The movie adaptation of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is said to focus on the book’s author, Newton Artemis Fido “Newt” Scamander and his time in New York. Since Scamander was commissioned to author the book in 1918, we can assume the movie will take place sometime after that. Relating this timeline to the events in the Harry Potter series, Tom Riddle (aka Voldemort) was not born until 1926, so we should expect to see what the wizarding world was like pre-Voldemort and Death Eaters.
This brings me to the source of my confusion: While I am excited to see Hollywood step out of the predictable prequel/sequel game, I have absolutely no clue what to expect from this film. Outside of authoring Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Newt Scamander (as best anyone knows) is a rather dull person. He spent most of his career in the Ministry of Magic, where he created a Werewolf Registry and enacted the Ban on Experimental Breeding (which, as you know, prohibits the unauthorized breeding of magical creatures – presumably in response to such breeds as the Basilisk and Acromantula). He was also headmaster of Hogwarts, though the time and length are unknown.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t know too many people who work for government that have tremendously exciting and adventurous personalities. And with no Death Eaters or other major known protagonists in the wizarding world, what can we expect in terms of conflict?
With this in mind, it seems that it would be far more interesting to focus on the content of the book: essentially a magical bestiary. And when looking at it this way, I think it could be far more cleverly done as a BBC mini-series in the vein of Planet Earth, perhaps even narrated by his grandson, Rolf Scamander.
This isn’t to say I’m not excited to see the expansion of the Harry Potter universe; I am. It could be very exciting, for example, to see how the existence of mythical creatures interferes with the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy and how the wizarding community keeps them hidden from muggles. I am also excited to see how American wizards and their governing authority are portrayed. And perhaps even the droll Scamander will find himself in life-or-death situations which will fuel his later legislation.
Bottom line is that I do have faith in J.K. Rowling to spin a captivating story, even with this Fantastic Beasts being her first screenplay. However, I’d rather see the wizarding world expanded in ways that directly tie into the original story.
And dear God, I do hope Quidditch Through the Ages won’t be the next movie. I’d far sooner see A History of Magic presented by Professor Cuthbert Binns.