Potterheads the world over got a surprise this morning almost as good as a letter from Hogwarts: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is becoming a movie, the first in a series, with a screenplay by J.K. Rowling. Well, I now know what happy memory I’m conjuring for the Patronus Charm.
Beasts is an encyclopedia of sorts chronicling all the magical characters in Rowling’s world, as documented by Magizoologist Newt Scamander. In 1918, Scamander was commissioned to write the book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The movie will tell this story, while also leaving open the possibility of returns from many famous Potter alums. Because Scamander is an established character in the Potterverse, there is already quite a bit we know about him: In addition to his respected work as a Magizoologist, the former Hufflepuff went on to become Headmaster of Hogwarts; got married to Porpentina; and his grandchild, Rolf, married everyone’s favorite kooky blonde, Luna Lovegood (who better show up in flash-forward). Though he passed away around the time of Harry Potter’s first year at Hogwarts, his name appeared on the Marauder’s Map in Prisoner of Azkaban, meaning he likely stuck around the castle as a ghost.
Heads up to J.K. Rowling: There’s already a fair amount of FanFiction about Scamander out there, but some highly creative fanfic writers are no match for the woman with the best imagination on the planet. Rowling clearly needs no help coming up with additional backstory for characters – have you seen her at a Q&A? – but, from one fan’s perspective, here are a few things I’d love to see the movie explore, working within the time frame already established.
1) Young(er) Dumbledore! I hope fans are prepared to be attracted to Dumbledore, because in 1918, Albus Dumbledore would be in his late 30s. It’s actually a period of Dumbledore’s life that isn’t already super well-documented, because his friendship with Gellert Grindelwald (who should also appear; Jamie Campbell Bower is clearly available) would have taken place prior, and the duo’s ultimate fight happens a bit later. It makes perfect sense for an author to cross paths with Dumbledore – perhaps Dumbledore gives him some advice? He’s known to be good at that – and it gives Rowling an excuse to share more information about a character she clearly knows quite well (and fans can’t get enough of).
2) A Love Story. We know Scamander gets married, but we don’t know much beyond that. The love aspect of the Harry Potter books never came across great in the movies (And no, I’ll never get over their butchering of Ginny), so a Rowling-penned script could be a great way to inject a fun, big-screen love tale. Perhaps he meets Porpentina tracking a beast together (not unlike two lovebirds who fell in love while taking down a mountain troll).
3) The Thrill of Magic. There’s a scene in the film version of Prisoner of Azkaban where Harry takes flight on Buckbeak for the first time, and it’s just thrilling and awe-inspiring and exciting and, well, magical. Having a ton of new creatures take to the screen could be a boring CGI-fest, but it could also just be really cool. If done correctly, it could inspire the kind of “This could all be real!” wonder that the best of Potter was famous for. If I can over-analyze a press release for a moment, this movie’s biggest knock sounds like it might be a little … just for kids? If Rowling and Co. can tap into the wonder that these creatures can provide (like seeing the dinosaurs for the first time in Jurassic Park), adults can get genuinely excited as well, and won’t just be packing theaters awkwardly trying to pretend to be years younger than they are. There are 75 magical creatures listed in Fantastic Beasts; surely a few of them are ready for a proper big-screen debut.
Who are you hoping Scamander crosses paths with? What would you like to see this movie explore? Note: You’ll lose 50 house points if you just say, “I want a Marauders prequel.”