So, as the entire internet and their mother learned recently, Harry Potter is back! In a brand new series! Okay, so it’s not a new book series but a new film series and J.K. Rowling is writing it! Except it isn’t a sequel series…or a prequel series…nor is it set in Hogwarts…But shut up, whatever, new Harry Potter that is officially canon and official because of J.K. Rowling! The world awaits.
The recently announced Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them film series is happening. It seems that when Warner Bros. realised that they needed something to fill the lightning bolt-scar-shaped hole in their annual line-up, some bright spark went ahead and decided that the answer to the question “what do we do now that there is no more Harry Potter?” is simply “make more Harry Potter!” While on one hand that could easily be seen as a cynical attempt to keep hold of the rights to the Potter series and milk some pennies from a fanbase aching to return to that wonderful wizarding world.
I’m okay with this. As an unabashed Potter fan I can’t wait for a fresh chance to dive back into the world that Rowling created and populated with so many wonderful and diverse characters. It would seem that Rowling can’t either, signing up to create an entirely new series set in the Potter ‘verse.
Not that this will be her first dip in expanding the world she created. From writing the Chocolate Frog card blurbs for the official tie-in video games, the ever-expanding labyrinth of Pottermore and the fabled “Scottish Book” often discussed in hush-tones by the most ardent and loyal of fans Rowling has set herself the task of expanding the adventures of The Boy Who Lived and chums into an ever-growing cottage industry. Admittedly, it’s a five hundred foot high cottage guarded by its own private military company with hourly drone patrols and seventy miles of electrified fences, whose insides are nothing more than a modest reception leading onto a pit deep enough to breach the Earth’s mantle filled with gold equipped with a diving board for Rowling and family to go swimming in Scrooge McDuck stylee.
Fantastic Beasts we know, will be set in the 1920s, at least in part, in New York. Clearly this is Rowling making the most of the opportunity. Yes, the safe thing to do would be to create either a prequel or sequel series to the Potter books, bringing in fans who want more from Harry, Ron, Hermione and the rest of the colourful cast introduced in her seven book epic, but the fact that Rowling is willing to try something so different is (for me at least) something to celebrate. Admittedly, an hour and a half of Severus Snape picking his nose would still rake it in at the box office, and if Rowling decided to tell this new chapter entirely through the medium of googly-eyed sock puppets Warner Bros. would’ve still given the project the green light, yet I am optimistic that by taking the scriptwriting duties as her own and announcing so many breaks from the established Potter setting, Rowling is pinning her desire to create a whole new and unprecedented version of her book-baby. It will be one with its own tone, themes, and as is the case with any “new” property, its own inherent risks (well, as risky as a proven and successful multi-billion dollar property can be).
That right there is what I’m excited for. With Hollywood starting to understand the potential of what an established franchise can do, through crossovers and massive intertwined narratives, Fantastic Beasts could well be not only a new stage in the life of the Potter universe, but also the perfect testing ground for the success of new extended cinematic universes-places where new stories and characters can exist apart from the constraints of the original movies. Disney is hoping to try it with the ever-increasing scale of the Marvel cinematic universe, as well as the plethora of upcoming Star Wars sequels and spin-offs, so I can imagine that Warner Bros. in the face of its own, less than stellar, attempts at a shared DC film universe, is hoping that this new venture will give them a fighting chance in the next phase of the franchise-dominating box office world.
I say good luck to them. I want more Potter and I’m definitely not alone in this. Sure, I have my concerns about how this could all go wrong, but I prefer to use my other article series for that. Ultimately, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them could be much more than what people might at first have expected both for fans of Harry Potter and for how Hollywood treats its major blockbuster properties going forward. If all goes well, I think that the results could be, well, magic.