Film

J.K. Rowling’s New Harry Potter Movie Might Not Be The Kick In The Childhood You Expect

The author's tapping into the Potter-verse again with 'Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them'. Don't worry, it might not suck.

I’ve been concerned for quite some time that J. K. Rowling wasn’t going to leave well enough alone, and that the endless rumours would be true. Even before the world’s favourite boy-wizard vanquished Voldemort and waved off the world’s most incestuously named group of siblings, whispers about an eighth novel or a spin-off series were already starting to go around.

But they all came to nothing. No headlines proclaiming the impending release of The Longbottom Chronicles, no scratch and sniff versions of Dudley The Muggle Ambassador, and, so far, Harry Potter And The Shark Jump is yet to hit shelves.

Rowling moved on to other, non-magical projects and it looked as though Potter had joined the Famous Five and Bilbo Baggins in the land of literary retirement, where I assume all well-loved characters sit around having tea parties, safe in the knowledge that no author is going to come in wearing their retcon hat and jeopardise their own well-laid foundations with good intentions, a thin plot, and ham-fisted execution.

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As it turns out, while Harry Potter may stay in this haven, the extended Potterverse is not going to remain immune from tinkering.

Hot off the back of a crime novel written under a pseudonym and a 503-page tome about small shire council bureaucracy, Rowling announced last week that she’s set to turn Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them — a textbook originally mentioned in Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone — into a quest film set in New York, seventy years before the events of the original novels.

Putting a textbook on the big screen sounds like the audio-visual equivalent of a warm glass of milk followed-up with a dose of chloroform, but if you get J.K. Rowling to write it, you’re pretty much guaranteed more box office gold than if you shouted “ACCIO MONEY”. The moment I have dreaded has arrived, but instead of sitting over a pile of shattered memories that no amount of weepy ‘reparos’ will fix, I am cautiously optimistic. It actually sounds quite good.

Released in 2001 to benefit the charity Comic Relief, and now coming to a cinema near you.

Why it could work

Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them is a textbook full of magical creatures and monsters listed alongside their danger rating, which sounds pretty exciting if you’re into things like “hating life” and “why did I spend fifteen dollars on this?” However, shockingly, the film reportedly won’t stick to this structure and instead will follow the adventures of the text’s author Newt Scamander as he sets about detailing all the weird creatures lurking just out of sight of us muggles.

There are two main reasons why this film will work without kicking us all right in the childhood: time frame and nerd potential.

Being set in a time outside of the novels means there is less opportunity to trample all over a story that has been well put to rest, something Joss Whedon should have kept in mind when he made Season 8 of Buffy in comic book form. Sure, it’s obviously exciting to see all your favourite characters back again, but this soon wears off when writers start flinging in homicidal almost-Hello Kittys and flying submarines full of slayers.

Besides, Rowling has already done this with her barely palatable final chapter in Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: ten years and the culmination of a seven-book series, and she ends it on what read like the bastard child of fan fiction and an Enid Blyton boarding school novel.

Hermione

This shouldn’t be the case for Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, which will not be a continuance of anything we’ve previously encountered. It’s simply a story that exists within the same universe, like Captain America to Iron Man, except with no looming Avengers. If, as mentioned, it’s set seventy years before Harry Potter himself was born, we’re looking at 1910, which means that a post-Van Helsing monster hunter was documenting Nargles and Trolls two years before the events of Downton Abbey started and before Jay Gatsby ever set eyes on Daisy.

There’s also the nerd pedigree potential with optional extra flowcharts. Anyone who sat through X-Men: First Class and tried to explain afterwards just why Hugh Jackman’s cameo was so awesome will probably enjoy the opportunity to see characters only previously alluded to via Chocolate Frog cards appearing onscreen.

Like The Hobbit, there will be opportunities to include significant characters who put a stamp on later events in the series. For example, in The Fellowship Of The Ring, Balin is just a name on a tomb in the midst of the Mines of Moria. In The Hobbit, he is flesh and beard, lending greater gravity to the films that came before it. So maybe we’ll get to see Dumbledore’s sister, or a glimpse of the relationship between him and Grindelwald? Nicholas Flamel could get a mention? Maybe we’ll even get to see Archie before he got to the age where he liked having a healthy breeze around his privates?

In the end, no matter how good the film is, people between the ages of 15-30 are going to see it because we’ve been classically conditioned into reaching straight for our wallets whenever we hear the words ‘Harry’ and ‘Potter’. Brb, heading to Gringotts.

Elizabeth is a freelance writer with a focus on film, television and pop culture. She edits Subterranean Death Cult, has been published in Film Ink, Metro, The Punch, and Lip Magazine, and tweets terrible puns @ElizabethFlux.