We begin with a bit of an anomaly.
In 2001 J.K. Rowling, in the guise of the oft-mentioned and cleverly-named Newt Scamander, wrote the original Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them as a way to raise money for the British charity Comic Relief. Certainly not with the intention of extending it to five (FIVE!) feature-length films. I would not, therefore, really expect the film to adapt the original work. That would be like adapting the Prentice Hall Biology textbook. Ooo. Mitosis.
But there’s clearly a connection to make here, so like true academics we’re going to make it! In Newt Scamander’s introduction to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, he states:
Imperfect understanding is often more dangerous than ignorance, and the Muggles’ fear of magic was undoubtedly increased by their dread of what might be lurking in their herb gardens. Muggle persecution of wizards at this time was reaching a pitch hitherto unknown and sightings of such beasts as dragons and Hippogriffs were contributing to Muggle hysteria. It is not the aim of this work to discuss the dark days that preceded the wizards’ retreat into hiding. All that concerns us here is the fate of those fabulous beasts that, like ourselves, would have to be concealed if Muggles were ever to be convinced there was no such thing as magic.
At this point, when he’s piqued our interest in this new subject, Scamander Rowling simply directs us to a footnote helpfully telling us to read more in A History of Magic by Bathilda Bagshot.
Lucky for us, Rowling’s mind brims with the unexplored and she couldn’t leave (un)well enough alone. She knew a story simmered beneath those remarks and she let it flow out her proverbial pen and into a screenplay.
What They Will Do:
I’ve wondered for months why they decided to keep the “and where to find them” bit from the title. Seemed a bit clunky for a blockbuster, no? But after reading the section “What is a Beast?”, which seeks to establish the parameters of “beasthood,” I began to wonder if we might see this as a theme emerging in the film. Where can we find the real beasts? A voiceover from Newt in the Comic-Con trailer gave me some confirmation: “We’re going to recapture my creatures before they get hurt. They’re currently in alien terrain surrounded by millions of the most vicious creatures on the planet—humans.”
What They Won’t Do:
In regard to adapting the original text, I doubt that they’ll get around to all the beasts mentioned. The film’s official website mentions six: nundu, niffler, erumpent, graphorn, thunderbird, and billywig. I understand that quintapeds or kelpies may not drive the plot along, but I’ll be inconsolable if we don’t get to see a lobalug along the way.
What They Should Do:
I always liked the idea that wizards wear different clothes than muggles—excuse me, no-majs. Based on the trailers I don’t think that will happen, but perhaps since the no-maj population in America struggles to remain hidden, that could explain it. Still, I think they should include visual cues or character ticks that indicate we’re dealing with an entirely different culture. Otherwise we simply have a “regular person discovers they have superpowers” situation.
What They Should UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES Do:
No extraneous shots of the familiar, please. One criticism I had for The Force Awakens was its insistence on nostalgia. For that particular movie it worked, because the franchise needed to reestablish what made the original Star Wars great and reassure millions of disillusioned prequel-shunners. With Pottermore and Rowling herself keeping us staid with tidbits between The Deathly Hallows and Fantastic Beasts, I don’t think we need a shot of Newt visiting Diagon Alley and defending himself against a copy of The Monster Book of Monsters.
Wish List Item:
I’d love to briefly see an illuminated medieval wizard text! Beasts includes a great quote from one Brother Benedict upon seeing (but not recognizing) a Jarvey: “The Friar was unwillinge to believe that I had met a talking Ferret and did ask me whether I had been supping of Brother Boniface’s Turnip Wine. As my nose was still swollen and bloody I was excused Vespers.” I’d put the chances of any reference to the Middle Ages at a solid 8%.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them hits theaters November 18. It is directed by David Yates, written by J.K. Rowling, and stars Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Samantha Morton, Jon Voight, Carmen Ejogo, and Colin Farrell. Rated PG-13.