J.K Rowling is at it again with a new instalment of the Harry Potter franchise on the way: Fantastic Beasts and Where to find them. The film will follow Newt Scamander, author of the book of the same name featured in the original book series, as he travels around 1920s New York after being expelled from Hogwarts… even though he was only a Hufflepuff. Inevitably there will be wands, dragons, various other magical beasts and a lovable wizard at the forefront – played by Eddie Redmayne.
This film is a refreshing change for Redmayne having just starred in The Theory of Everything and The Danish Girl to wide critical acclaim, in contrast Fantastic Beasts seems set to be a light hearted film aimed at younger audiences. Although it is the first in a confirmed series, it could be possible that Redmayne is not ready to head a franchise like Harry Potter. But as can be seen in the trailer Redmayne seems to be adopting the stereotypically charming, British, male character which is popular the world over- harking back to Richard Curtis era Hugh Grant or young Colin Firth, or indeed Redmayne himself in any interview ever. The Brit in a sea of Americans cliché is set to make an appearance as well as Redmayne’s wizard is thrust into 1920s New York City. The combination of location, time period and casting choice seems a little oversaturated, especially considering the film is building on already extensive wizard lore, but this may be the only way to continue the franchise without overcomplicating British “wizarding history”.
The profitable quality of Harry Potter and the continual success of Harry Potter theme parks and studio tours mean that this movie will make money, a lot of money…
However, the profitable quality of Harry Potter and the continual success of Harry Potter theme parks and studio tours mean that this movie will make money, a lot of money. Equally the appearance of popular American actors – Ron Perlman, Ezra Miller and Jon Voight – does imply that Warner Bros is attempting to expand the franchise to suit American audiences. The continuous production of Potter paraphernalia and experiences is consumerist and generally only embraced by the fans. But with such a gargantuan fan-base in the UK, stateside and elsewhere can there ever be too much? It is undoubtable that any expansion will be greeted with open arms; there is hardly any other fandom that is as well-loved as Harry Potter. And Rowling’s unending devotion to her fans, and the actors who have starred in the films is evident. Perhaps this film is just an inevitable extension of the universe that stems from its popularity.
Ultimately, studios want to make money and as such will buy the rights to anything they think will do so. What is Rowling to do when Warner Bros wants to continue the series; allow someone else to make decisions about her own beloved book series? And following the recent expansion of Pottermore (Rowling’s Potter roleplay site which includes original pieces of writing by the author) to include schools from Japan, Eastern Europe, America and Australia and also lore from other “wizarding cultures” it seems inevitable that countless more movies can be made, tv shows pitched or books written. Some may remember that the first copy of Fantastic Beasts – excluding those mentioned in the books – was released to raise money for comic relief along with Quidditch Through the Ages and Tales of Beedle the Bard. Two other movie series in the making? Or perhaps plays, as we have seen with Rowling’s The Cursed Child which has received a lot of anticipation, and praise for its casting choices – notably Noma Dumezwemi, an actress of Swazi descent, to play an older Hermione.
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If anything this movie is set to be fun and higher in spirits than the final few Potter films. But more than this, the movie and plays, are an opportunity to expand the Potter universe in a way which is more inclusive and more representative of its now varied fan-base. The Harry Potter Books are still first choice for many parents and children when beginning to read together, or on their own and undoubtedly the types of characters who appear in the stories and films set examples for the younger generation. Any extension of the franchise which allows this can be a good thing, despite the mounds of Galleons the movies will undoubtedly make for Warner Bros, Rowling and their associates. But with Rowling being a renowned philanthropist, even demoting herself from billionaire status, her money may go to good use. That may be a platitude but nonetheless Fantastic Beasts is set to be a success due to its excessive hype, so we might as well lie back and enjoy it. It may, at the very least, be the most interesting movie about a Hufflepuff to be made in our lifetime.
By Delilah Niel