By Allison Kamel
We’re currently living in a world where it seems like there’s new Harry Potter information and content being released somewhere constantly, even though the final movie was released in 2011. The Potter fandom is one of the biggest fandoms to ever exist and there’s so much to be learned about the Harry’s world, so we’re really lucky, right?
Dare I say that new Potter information is getting…old? It somehow feels like it’s not that exciting any more. Maybe a lot of this has to do with the wide disappointment regarding Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which was released this summer and did not generally live up to its hype. Whatever the reason may be, this overload of information makes it hard to get excited for the newest piece of the franchise: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
The movie, which will be released mid-November, is an expansion of the Harry Potter world, based in 1920s New York City. It focuses on a character named Newt Scamander, played by Eddie Redmayne. We met Scamander as the author of one of Harry’s textbooks, which was then published as a book in 2001. JK Rowling donated the proceeds of the book to the charity Comic Relief. This movie was originally marketed as a trilogy.
Everything we previously knew about Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them changed on October 13. JK Rowling, the screenwriter for the movie, announced that the movie was actually the first of five. She tweeted later that day, “I think, when you realise what story we’re *really* telling, you’ll understand that it can’t possibly fit in one movie!”
So what is the story she’s really telling?
Most fans are speculating that the real focus of these movies is the story of Gellert Grindelwald, the dark wizard who Albus Dumbledore was childhood friends with and then later defeated. If this is the case, it is hard to not get excited. Very little is really told about Grindelwald in the original series and fans have been asking questions about him since he was mentioned in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as a part of Dumbledore’s backstory.
Trailers of the movie show newspaper articles mentioning Grindelwald. Headlines include “Gellert Grindelwald: Dark Wizard Strikes Again in Europe” and “Grindelwald Attacks: Risking War With No-Majs.” (We’ll get to what a No-Maj is in a minute.) A trailer also includes the line, “I wonder what makes Albus Dumbledore so fond of you,” directed at Newt Scamander by Percival Graves, played by Colin Farrell. Graves is the Director of Magical Security at the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA).
Which brings us to the second reason Fantastic Beasts is worth paying attention to and being excited about: Magic in America. Magic in AMERICA.
We get to see the magical world in our country and, for us New Yorkers, our city. The magical world in 1920s NYC is very different from Harry’s British magical world. Instead of the Ministry of Magic, we have the MACUSA. Instead of a Minister of Magic, we have a President of MACUSA. And, perhaps the change that will take the most getting used to, American wizards refer to non-magical people as No-Majs, not muggles.
American wizardry is something new to us to explore. Pottermore has released a wealth of information about it, including Ilvermony, the American version of Hogwarts. This school, like Hogwarts, has four houses: Thunderbird, Horned Serpent, Pukwudgie and Wampus. There is a sorting quiz on Pottermore for those wishing to be sorted into their American houses. It is not yet clear how Ilvermony will be involved in the Fantastic Beasts movies, but there is a trailer that features the school. The involvement of this school will be something to look for as the series develops.
Another small detail about the differences between the American Wizarding World and the British Wizarding World: a trailer includes a house-elf holding a wand. This is shown so quickly, most people probably missed it. There’s nothing known about this yet, so feel free to make your own predictions and head canons about what this means until the movies give us more information.
If all of this is not enough to peak your interest, remember this: the screenplays are written by JK Rowling herself. It’s not a screenplay written by other people, with the help or editing by JK Rowling, like Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. It’s her ideas, her plot, her writing.
In addition, David Heyman is a producer of the movie and David Yates is the director. Heyman produced all eight of the original Harry Potter movies, while Yates directed the last four of the eight movies. The score of the film is in the hands of James Howard Newton, who was not connected to the original movies. However, he did produce the score of The Hunger Games franchise and the main theme of the song was released earlier this month. The theme is reminiscent of the very well known Harry Potter theme (technically called “Hedwig’s Theme”), which was composed by John Williams. It starts out with the same melody almost anyone can recognize as “Hedwig’s Theme” and then builds into a more ominous sounding piece. These tones fit the nature of all of the trailers we’ve seen so far, which feature New York City in danger and fear.
So we know that this movie is in good hands, we know that we have a lot more to discover about magic in our home country, and we pretty much know we’ll get to learn about one of the darkest wizards to ever live. How can we not be excited?