by Daley Wilhelm
When it was announced that there would be another Harry Potter movie, fans everywhere were ecstatic. Would it be the Marauder-era prequel Potterheads have demanded? A series following the escapades of Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s kids?
As it turned out, the new trilogy was none of the aforementioned. Rather, we’d be getting three movies based on a magazine-sized book: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
In the Harry Potter universe, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them is a textbook all Hogwarts first years are required to buy. It briefly details magical animals one might run into in the Wizarding World, such as acromantulas, doxies or jobberknolls. In actuality, the short book was written and illustrated by J.K. Rowling to benefit the Comic Relief charity in 2001 alongside another “Hogwart’s Library” book Quidditch Through the Ages by Kennilworthy Wisp. It’s yet to be seen if we’ll get a movie series out of the latter book, but as for Fantastic Beasts, the first film comes out this Friday November 18.
The first film explores the life of Newt Scamander, played by Eddie Redmayne. In the Harry Potter lore, Artemis Fido “Newt” Scamander is an awkward magizoologist travelling the globe in order to write a comprehensive textbook on the fantastic beasts of the world and where one might find them.
Scamander was born in 1897 and was introduced to magical creatures at a young age, his mother being a hippogriff breeder. When he later attended Hogwarts and was sorted into Hufflepuff, he continued this interest much to his own detriment and the apparent danger to those around him: he was expelled from Hogwarts for “endangering human life” with a beast. After his expulsion, he worked in the Ministry of Magic first in the “tedious” Office for House-Elf Relocation, and later in the Beast Division. Because of his obsessive knowledge of creatures and critters, he was quickly promoted and caught the eye of Obscurus Books who convinced him to quit his job and explore the world, writing the first draft of the book the Wizarding World would come to know and love.
The film picks up in December of 1926 after he finishes his research throughout the world’s jungles and stops off in America’s urban jungle: New York City. Here, his suitcase–enchanted with an Undetectable Extension Charm and filled with various monsters from his travels–is accidentally opened, causing mayhem and increasing the already dangerously high tensions between the magic and non-magical communities.
I solemnly swear there are spoilers past this point.
Newt must then gather up his escaped creatures while chaos ensues. Helping him is a Muggle (or No-Maj as the Americans call them) named Jacob Kowalski and Newt’s future wife Porpentina Goldstein. Unfortunately for Newt, who is better equipped to handle animals than humans, he is caught up in the politics between the Magical Congress of the United States of America and New Salem Philanthropic Society. Spoiler alert: the Society isn’t so philanthropic and is definitely more comparable to the Salem Witch Trials.
Whatever transpires in the movie, in the current Harry Potter canon, we know that Newt survives this ordeal, marries Porpentina, and has a grandchild named Rolf who eventually marries Luna Lovegood. Newt’s self-proclaimed lifetime achievement is creating the Werewolf Registry and a ban on experimental breeding of magical creatures. So maybe whatever happens in New York isn’t as exciting as the trailers are making it out to be, at least not to Newt, who lives and breathes the study and care of magical creatures.What is exciting is what appears to follow Fantastic Beasts: already fans have been given significant hints at where the narrative will go after Newt’s adventure in New York. Warner Bros. has teased that the second film will explore a darker time, one where our principal characters will have to choose where their allegiances lie.
Currently, the an intriguing tidbit of plot is in the casting of Johnny Depp as Gellert Grindelwald. Grindelwald was the original Voldemort: a dark wizard searching for power by any means necessary. Before becoming infamous for his evil and for his defeat by Dumbledore, he was friends with everyone’s favorite headmaster of Hogwarts. Together they sought to find the Deathly Hallows and to revolutionize the Wizarding World by revealing magic to Muggles and ruling over them.
Dumbledore, blinded by deeper feelings for his friend, eventually had a falling out with Grindelwald. This was due to the death of his sister Ariana Dumbledore during a duel between Dumbledore, his brother Aberforth, and Grindelwald.
Is this the plot for the second Fantastic Beasts film? An exploration of the rise of the OG dark wizard and the beginning of Albus Dumbledore coming to be known as one of the most powerful wizards ever?
Only time and spoilers will tell.