Fantastic Beasts

In July 2011, it ended. Adapting the final novel in rags-to-riches author J. K. Rowling's generation-defining series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 marked the eighth and final film at the core of the Wizarding World. For a full decade, fans aged alongside Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson, starring as the heroic trio in the once-in-a-century, intergenerational, right-time-and-place story; a world that captivated Millennials, then grew up with them; a pop culture phenomenon to rival Star Wars; and now, it was over.

Sure, the $8 billion box office revenue of the Potter films are really just a portion of the "Wizarding World" franchise's $33 billion in earnings since The Philosopher's Stone's publication in 1997 (with the remaining billions due to books, merchandise, video games, home video, and of course, theme parks)... but undeniably, the end of Harry Potter would signal the end of the Wizarding World's annual billion dollar box office dominance.

Fantastic Beasts textbook
Image: Pottermore

... Or would it? In 2013, J. K. Rowling and Warner Bros. announced that they'd begun pre-production on a new film that would serve not just as a new chapter, but a new story altogether in the Wizarding World franchise, set decades before and far from the events of Harry Potter. You have to remember that when Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them was announced, fans knew only that it would follow the exploits of explorer and "magi-zoologist" Newt Scamander on his international adventures that would eventually lead him to write the textbook of the same name that would one day end up on Hogwarts school supply lists – a subtle but spectacular connection to existing Potter lore.

Set in the 1920s and '30s, images were conjured in fans' minds of the Wizarding World's Indiana Jones; an explorer and adventurer, braving ancient temples and magical jungles in search of the rarest, wildest, and most dangerous of the Wizarding World's creatures; a fun, colorful, adventurous, pulpy, and low-stakes exploration of a corner of the Wizarding World we'd never seen. It stood to reason that the globetrotting exploits of Scamander and his research into fantastic creatures could even become a standalone franchise in its own right – a potential made all the more real when it was announced in 2014 that Fantastic Beasts was pre-approved for three films (revised in 2016 to FIVE films) set in – but exploring a vastly different corner from – Harry Potter's world.

Sounds fun, right? Then, the troubles began.

Fantastic Beasts...

Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them made its debut in 2016. To be sure, the film earned positive reviews and earned a high-respectable $800 million. But at least for many, it wasn't really what they'd expected. 

Image: Warner Bros.

For better or worse, the Fantastic Beasts series follows Newt Scamander – not a rugged, Oscar Isaacs, Indiana Jones-esque explorer, but a timid, buttoned-up, and introverted worker for the Ministry of Magic played by the soft-spoken Eddie Redmayne. His adventures begin not in exotic jungles, but in New York City of 1926, where an enchanted suitcase of irridescent, unusual, CGI, Rowling-invented creatures (a divergence from the classic unicorns, dragons, mermaids, centaurs, and spiders of the Harry Potter world) accidentally, anti-climactically opens.

Scamander allies with Tina Goldstein (a former Auror caught in the bureaucracy of the Magical Congress of the United States, or MACUSA) as well as a "No-Maj" (apparently, the American equivalent to the British "Muggle") New Yorker named Jacob Kowalski. From there... well... let's ask: do you remember the plot of Magical Creatures and Where To Find Them?

Image: Warner Bros.

We'll give you a hint: it involves an anti-witchcraft legion of puritans who live in a ramshackle old schoolhouse weirdly set in the middle of Manhattan, whose adopted child Credence (Ezra Miller, in the actor's second high-profile Warner Bros. franchise after playing DC's The Flash) has so much repressed magical potential, it turns into a violent force called an Obscurus. MACUSA weirdly sentences Newt and Tina to death because a creature killed a senator, but they escape. Also, there's a detective played by Collin Farrel who's actually using a Polyjuice Potion (hey, I remember those!) to disguise that he's not Collin Farrel, he's Johnny Depp, playing the "Voldemort" of early 20th-century Wizarding World, Gellart Grindelwald, who was remembered as a long-dead bad guy and one-time Dumbledore foe by Harry Potter's time.

Look, Fantastic Beasts didn't have an easy job to begin with in expanding the Wizarding World. It's okay that the movie was (as reviews put it) "bogged down by exposition" or a bit of a "slog," having to introduce so much new world-building.

Image: Warner Bros.

And even if viewers can get the strict sense that Rowling doesn't know much about New York, American government, or America's home-grown concepts of magic and magical creatures, a New York City of the 1920s is a clever, intriguing setting no one would've expected from the Wizarding World's next era. Sure, Fantastic Beasts is a little color-drained, and pretty CGI-heavy, and a little too in-the-weeds with world-building. But even if it isn't the general aesthetic so many fans pictured, it would be interesting to see how Scamander ends up writing that text book, and with two – er, I mean, FOUR – more movies to go, that was inevitable.

Then, it started to crumble... Read on..



Just think what would have happened if Universal based their Harry Potter lands on the "Fantastic Beasts" movie. Why, it would be like Disney basing their Star Wars land on the sequel trilogy. Meet Newt Scamander and Johnny Depp's Grindelwald at Universal! Meet Rey and Kylo Ren at the Disney Studios!
But luckily, the studios got smart and Universal went with the original Harry Potter books and Disney went with the original Star Wars trilogy. Fly with Harry Potter and ride with Hagrid! Fly the Millennium Falcon with Han Solo and meet Darth Vader.
I mean, that's what happened with Galaxy's Edge, right? Right?

I attempted to watch the first "Fantastic Beasts" movie when it was streaming, and I turned it off after about thirty minutes because I was not invested in the story or characters at all. I think the idea of focusing on the American magic school is brilliant, and would give Universal's creative team so much fresh territory. Great article, very enjoyable to read!

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