The Uncertainty of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

By  · Published on July 26th, 2016

A Harry Potter fan weighs in with some healthy skepticism.

A brand spanking new trailer for this fall’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them dropped at Comic Con. Fantastic Beasts is the newest installment of the Harry Potter universe; the film was directed by David Yates – the director of the last four Harry Potter films – and written by J.K. Rowling herself. It seems perfectly poised, on paper, to continue the legacy of the beloved franchise.

This film is based on a “textbook” of the same name that was released as a supplement to the Harry Potter series of books. As such, the source material did not really have a plot, but Rowling has fashioned one for this film. As a fan of the franchise for many years, I had been fairly concerned about the plot of a Fantastic Beasts film, and this trailer did little to assuage my fears.

This trailer feels very familiar as a Harry Potter fan. The colors, the wands, the magical creatures, the magical slang and jargon, and the indescribable undertones of whimsy that the HP franchise is known for are all present in abundance. However, this film is set halfway around the world from the very British settings of Hogwarts and Kings Cross Station. These characters are totally new and viewers will not enter the theater with the same love for the characters that the rest of the Harry Potter series benefitted from.

Judging by the trailer alone, the hero of this film is, ostensibly, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), who comes to America with a briefcase full of magical creatures. An unknown number of these creatures escape from his enchanted briefcase and begin terrorizing the non-wizard (No-Mag) population of 1920’s New York. There is, of course, more nuance to the plot, but the trailer is doing it no favors. As a New Yorker, we have enough careless tourists. It would be difficult for me to root for a character whose entire plot conflict seems so self-created in this sort of buffoonish way.

The promotion of this film outside of trailers has not been without controversy as well. J.K. Rowling has gotten herself into some murky waters on Twitter revealing the backstory and differences between English and American wizarding societies. She has been accused of appropriating Native American spirituality for use in this new American wizarding world and underestimating just how many people live in this great nation.

As a Harry Potter fan, I maintain a healthy skepticism about this film. I will undoubtedly see it, and I hope that the plot is better than the trailer would lead one to believe. If nothing else, it will be like visiting an old friend as the film is so visually similar to the rest of the Harry Potter series.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them hits theaters November 18, 2016.

Related Topics: , , ,