Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Repeating the Potter Series

by hpboy13

I know we’re all excited about the upcoming Fantastic Beasts movie, given the hype and hoopla for the reveal of the title/image/synopsis of the next film. Sure, we may be more excited about some things than others (Johnny Depp is still the worst, and as the hosts of MuggleCast pointed out, the title is disappointing in its simplicity). But generally, folks are getting more and more hyped with every tidbit.

As for me… I’m growing more and more concerned about the film. Specifically, I’m growing concerned that it’ll become a rehash of everything we’ve done in Harry Potter. The whole selling point of the Fantastic Beasts film series is that it’s a brand new story. So why does it begin to seem like they’re retreading familiar ground?

The biggest warning sign I received was the synopsis for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald referring to Grindelwald’s “true agenda: to raise pure-blood wizards up to rule over all non-magical beings.” Excuse me, but what in the name of Merlin’s most baggy Y-fronts is that all about? Literally everything we know of Grindelwald suggests he had the opposite agenda: raising wizards to rule over Muggles. That’s what his diatribe against Picquery was about in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. That’s what’s contained in the letter he sends to Albus, seen in Deathly Hallows. If he wants Muggles subjugated to wizards, then Muggle-borns are a good thing; they sway the numbers toward the wizards.

More importantly, this distinction is what makes him different from Voldemort (as discussed in my essay “The Big Bads“). The whole pure-blood supremacy shtick? Been there! Done that! Read over 4,000 pages all about it! Voldemort was a fantastic villain, but Grindelwald won’t be able to out-Voldy Voldemort, so let’s have a bit of variety in our villains! Otherwise, the wizarding world will become like CW’s The Flash: The first speedster Big Bad was spectacular, the second and third completely uninspired.

Then, looking at the title art for Crimes of Grindelwald, every HP fan worth their wand noticed the Deathly Hallows buried in the vowels. And again, why would the Hallows be involved? The Cloak is, as far as we know, in the custody of either Henry Potter of Fleamont Potter. The Resurrection Stone is in the custody of Morfin Gaunt. It’s bad enough that the climactic battle of the entire series will involve the changing allegiance of the Elder Wand, but I have no desire to go through the Hallows again, especially given that we know where they will all end up by 1945 anyway.

It’s why I’m really hoping the films don’t exert a lot of energy on the question of who’s master of the Elder Wand (which is probably Newt at the moment, so it’ll definitely come up in some capacity). We’re all good on complicated wandlore as it related to mastery of the Elder Wand; there’s a lovely 700-page book all about it that we can reread to our hearts’ content. We don’t need a few more films about it.

I also worry about the storyline of this new Maledictus. I have to imagine that her “blood curse” isn’t lycanthropy because we’ve been there and done that with werewolves in the HP series. But I hope she is very different from both Lupin and Greyback so we can get a fresh, new perspective on what it’s like to deal with a transformation you can’t control.

And this is my attitude toward most things to do with the original HP series. Leave well enough alone, and tell your own story. Leave the Potters out of it. And leave the primary MacGuffins of the Potter series out of it as well: The Hallows, the Horcruxes, and the Sorcerer’s Stone. We’ve received no indication thus far that Grindelwald seeks immortality; let’s keep it that way. I’m not opposed to running into some peripheral HP characters (I’m quite looking forward to the Flamels!). But if they’re just going to rehash Harry Potter by making Grindelwald a Voldy 2.0… well, then just reboot the films and be done with it.

This could be much ado about nothing since the title card and the synopsis could just be some crappy decisions made by the marketing department at Warner Bros. and have precious little to do with what’s in the actual movie. That’s one of the frustrating things about receiving Potter products that are crafted by corporations instead of Jo all by herself… you don’t know what’s actually relevant information and what’s corporate nonsense. But I grow warier and warier that this film series won’t be quite as wonderful as we all want it to be.

  • Lisa

    I think it’s clear that the only reason this franchise is so popular is because of its connection to Harry Potter. Without it, the first movie would have been an okay fantasy movie like so many other okay fantasy movies around nowadays. So I wouldn’t be surprised if they try to make it as similar to the HP series as possible. Maybe I’m an exception but I just can’t see it as anything other than a consolation prize that Harry Potter is over. Like, your pet just died and your parents get you a new one just like it and tell you you’re gonna love it just as much. Just no! I want the original one back!

    I would rather JKR spent her time updating Pottermore with more character bios than creating five substitutes for a beloved series. But whatever, she does what she wants of course. Who knows, maybe Fantastic Beasts will get out of the shadow of the HP series one day. Right now it all comes across as rather unnecessary storytelling. And of course money is involved! If I remember correctly she was approached about writing a script, it didn’t come out of her desire to tell a story.

    • To further your analogy, I am open to loving the new pet almost as much as the old one. I want a pet in my life. But my old pet was fun and affectionate and liked to play. The new one is a goldfish. If the parents had just bothered to get a pet as good as the first one, we’d be fine.

      (No disrespect to goldfish intended.)

    • Jane Bloggs

      here’s the thing, It might feel like a substitute/consolation prize to you but that’s because you grew up with the original books/movies. There’s kids/other people who are just discovering harry potter who did not got to live all the milestones we did. Fantastic Beasts is their intro to the world and from what I’ve seen there’s hundreds of people in fandom that have fallen in love with the characters of Newt,Credence,Tina&Queenie just as much as we did with Harry & co. So i think it rather self-centered to say FB is unnecessary just because it doesn’t appeal to you. (To follow your pet analogy it would be like your sibling/cousin getting a pet and loving it and you being mean to it because your own pet died)

      And the thing is, JKR tried the whole ‘More story with the harry potter characters we love” with authorizing John Tiffany & Jack thorne to write “Cursed Child’ and a large number of fans absolutely Hated it.

      So it feels a very ‘damn if she does, damn if she doesn’t’ situation- and would you rather she didn’t made anything at all?

      As for the money part, JKR is one of the richest women in the world, if it’s a money issue it’s on WB not her.
      and yes, WB came with the proposal of the script but if you watch JKR interviews she says she already had the story of Newt in her head, so i’m sure it would have come out with or without WB involvement.

      • worldstraveller

        I agree mostly with you, specially Cursed Child, I didn’t read it plus I had and have no intentions to read it and from what I have heard, it made me even less willing to read it, simply because the script “new story of Harry Potter” wasn’t written by JKRowling, when HP was written by someone else in the movies and just based on the books, we saw how that went *cough*Steve Kloves*cough*.
        If is a new story in the wizarding world, it has to be written by JKRowling herself, not “others” (because I don’t trust them).

      • Lisa

        I’m not sure how it’s self centered to be expressing _my_ feelings or opinions on an issue. I’m not saying no one else should enjoy it or that it should disappear, I’m just explaining why it doesn’t appeal to me. It feels like a “poor man’s” Harry Potter but if some kids these days are more into FB than the HP series, that’s fine for them. Though I would say that FB is less of a children’s tale than Harry Potter was, for starters because all characters are grown ups.
        (And I didn’t hate Cursed Child at all, just for the record.)

  • Jeremy Plume

    Utter blasphemy!

  • Gary Bernard

    I feel like there is waaaay more cynicism in this article than there needs be… The whole negative view is based on groundless assumptions. If the first film tells us anything, it is that Rowling is more than capable of telling unique stories within the wizarding world. There were connections to Potter, sure, but the overall plot was quite distinct. I should mention, too, that the hallows are SO directly tied to Grindelwald and Dumbledore that it would be ridiculous if they weren’t mentioned. Freaking Dumbledore used the symbol (from his time as Grindelwald’s buddy) as the first letter of his name. There is just WAY too much that is original, distinct, and fascinating about what has been made this far and what has been alluded to for the future of Fantastic Beasts to support such a pessimistic view.

    • I get that GG and DD were super into the Hallows, but that was when they were eighteen. I was under the impression that they left well enough alone after that – hence GG’s plans for Obscuruses. And what is my groundless assumption, other than taking the promotional material at face value? I think there is plenty of reason for us to be cautious, though no one’s despairing quite yet.

      In regard to your opening statement… Rowling’s output over the last two years has made me a cynic. Regardless of how much fault lies with her versus others, the accumulation of Cursed Child, FB1, Career of Evil, and her sloppy Pottermore cash grabs does not inspire optimism in me. I keep waiting and hoping it’ll all get turned around, but I’ve learned to keep expectations in check.

      • Jane Bloggs

        Considering that Grindewald had the elder wand by the time he duelled Dumbledore AND that later on Voldemort went looking for Grindewald to get it, not to mention Dumbledore getting cursed by the resurrection stone-turned horcrux that seemed like evidence that it wasn’t something that left alone in their youth.

        and wasn’t the fans issues that the Hallows ‘came out of nowhere’ in the seventh book? I think their inclusion here is to integrate them better to the story so they’re tied better to the overal narrative.Which is something that Rowling has done since the beginning. She has mentioned stuff in one book that has become relevant again in a later one (ex. The Chamber of Secrets & the Basilisk in book 2, to then be re-introduced in book seven to destroy horcruxes,etc,etc) So to me it makes perfect sense that she’s bringing elements we’ve seen before.

        (and while Career of Evil wasn’t my favorite of the Strike Novels, I hope you’re not implying that she shouldn’t have branched out of Harry Potter- because that would be a bit contradictory to the ‘She should do new things instead of repeating stuff)

        • Right, but as you say, she leaves stuff that will come into play later, which is awesome foreshadowing. This would be going back to explain away something that we already know – not foreshadowing, retconning. Big difference.

          I know that the Hallows factor in to DD/GG much later. But we know where they end up at the end of this story, so it would just be spinning wheels to have a whole shebang about hunting Hallows only for them to end up back with the Potters and Gaunts as we knew they would.

          And I’m all for Rowling branching out from HP, I loved Cuckoo’s Calling to bits. I just found both Silkworm and Career of Evil to be not terribly good – both of them, among other reasons, for their very problematic portrayal of women, which you’d think is something Jo would strive to get better at instead of regressing.

          • Gary Bernard

            I don’t know if much focus will actually be on hunting hallows… I’m sure there will be references to them (and I do actually hope to see the cloak in the care of Harry’s grandfather, but only briefly), but I think it will be much more of a side plot. The main story will revolve around Newt and his doings, and I’m excited to learn more.

      • Gary Bernard

        Cursed Child and Pottermore are not purely Rowling, so it seems off to base opinions on those, and I have no interest in the Strike series, so I have no grounds to respond your claim there. Rowling’s non-wizarding world stuff always sounds dull to me. I do, however, think Fantastic Beasts was wonderful, and since that is the work that is most connected to CoG, it makes more sense to base expectations on that, which is why mine are so high (full disclosure: I’m also one who, despite some qualms, really enjoyed CC). You, of course, have the right to think otherwise, and maybe that’s best. Going in with low expectations is sometimes good because then the actual product is better than you expect… My main concern is when people go in looking for things to complain about (not saying that you will… just that people do). Especially when so much is unknown, it seems like unnecessary weight to carry around worrying if a movie we know very little about will be too much like the HP series…especially when so much points to it being complementary and unique.

  • Francisco Neri Quiloquilo

    What’s this?! There’s nothing to worry about! WE SHOULD BE EXCITED.

  • worldstraveller

    I do understand your concern, even I am concerned but not as much as you and slightly wary.
    But there is a good reason, the difference between HP and FB is that HP original story came from the books written by JKRowling, so when the movies came out, we kinda knew what to expect, FB on the other hand is spin off movies saga written by JKRowling, so we’re going to watch it completely blind and since the cinema industry is bit of a fishy business, so it’s valid to feel worried about it.

  • Sarina Knight

    I agree with this wholeheartedly. However I do think it is a bit early for certainty that this series is going to be a Potter repeat. The worry is there, but it might just as easily turn out to be misplaced.
    I really hope that Rowling is being mindful about these issues so it will turn out that we had nothing to worry about in the first place.
    Still, a nagging piece of doubt remains in my mind…

    • Merlin, I hope you’re right and this worry is misplaced. Here’s hoping!

  • Iain Walker

    “Raising wizards to rule over Muggles” isn’t the opposite of “raising pure-blood wizards up to rule over all non-magical beings” at all – the latter is simply a more extreme version of the former. Purebloods are a subset of wizards and Muggles are a subset of all non-magical beings (assuming of course that “Muggles” and “all non-magical beings” aren’t meant to be synonymous here). All we’re being told is that Grindelwald’s Ubermensch category is more narrowly defined than we knew before.

    That said … Yeah. Straightforward wizarding supremacy would have made a more interesting motivating ideology for the villains this time round. However …

    If he wants Muggles subjugated to wizards, then Muggle-borns are a good thing; they sway the numbers toward the wizards.

    True, but maybe he envisages Muggle-borns as constituting the second rung down in the hierarchy, outranking non-magicals but not quite part of the ultimate elite.

    Also, we’re told that he’s keeping his long-term agenda under wraps as he gathers followers. So I won’t be surprised if some of his propaganda appeal is directed towards Muggle-borns themselves, as the segment of wizarding society most likely to chaff against the Statute of Secrecy and more restrictive local rules like Rappaport’s Law. That’s how populist demagogues work after all – they appeal to discontent amongst the wider public, using it to serve their own, narrow interests. We may see Muggle-borns amongst his followers, unaware that they’re being used. So there’s still plenty of room for Grindelwald to be a savvier villain than Voldemort, with a more complex agenda.

    “I have no desire to go through the Hallows again”

    Agreed, but I suspect we won’t see anything of them apart from the Elder Wand. The significance of the Deathly Hallows in the title image is, I suspect, purely a matter of Grindelwald having appropriated them as his symbol. I.e., the Sign of the Deathly Hallows is going to be more important than the Hallows themselves.

    “I also worry about the storyline of this new Maledictus.”

    The wording “ultimately destines her to transform into a beast” suggests a slow, long-term and irreversible transformation, something quite different from lycanthropy. I think it’s safe to say that we’re looking at something new here.

    All in all, I see where you’re coming from and I’m not saying that you’re wrong to worry. I do feel, however, that everybody seems to be trying to draw sweeping conclusions from a vague synopsis and a promo photo. I’d like a few more data points first (roll on the first trailer).

  • Chris Bzo Bortolazzo

    Listen I’m not saying your wrong the piece was well written and thought out. I’m not a huge fan of the Depp move but he only had two lines. Trust the writing trust the director. And by the way following the Harry Potter formula isn’t exactly the dumbest idea in history as proven. My opinions. All the best

    • Thank you for that, and I respect your opinions! But what would make me trust the writing or the director?

  • Iain Walker

    Here’s a thought – if Grindelwald is (ultimately) pursuing a narrow pureblood supremacist agenda as opposed to a broader magical supremacist one, then this shouldn’t be particularly surprising. It simply reflects the historical agenda of the radical right in Wizarding Europe.

    We know that Durmstrang excludes Muggle-borns, and we also know that Voldemort seems to have found a number of followers of Eastern European background (Dolohov, Karkaroff). I.e., purebloodism doesn’t seem have been a uniquely British form of extremism. It’s likely to have been formative in Grindelwald’s upbringing, and the fertile recruitment that Voldemort found in Europe fifty years later may (in part) be due to Grindelwald’s legacy.

    So yes, a plain and simple wizarding supremacist ideology for Grindelwald might have been a refreshing change, but a narrow purebloodist ideology has pre-existing historical context. It may not be expansive world-building, but it is consistent.

    In any case, we may still see something different in Grindelwald’s version. Voldemort’s purebloodism was implicitly genocidal towards Muggle-borns, but we don’t know that of Grindelwald. If he envisages purebloods as the ruling elite, Muggle-borns may simply be the next rank down in the hierarchy – second class citizens, but still more Uber- than Untermensch.

    And if, as we’re told, Grindelwald is keeping his true agenda under wraps, then this may hint at a rather different strategy than Voldemort’s. Which parts of magical society are most likely to chaff against the Statute of Secrecy and more restrictive local ordinances like Rappaport’s Law? Muggle-borns, mainly – they have feet in both worlds, but are forced to keep them separate or worse, choose one over the other. What’s more, they haven’t been raised with the long historical memory of persecution, and so are less likely to see the separation of Magical and Muggle worlds as a necessity. So it’s not implausible that Grindelwald may attempt to appeal to Muggle-borns as a constituency, and actually gain followers in doing so.

    (There’s also been some speculation about Queenie’s loyalties in the next film, based on rather subjective interpretations of her facial expression when she looks at Grindelwald in the cast photo. But an agenda that could be spun as breaking down barriers between Magical and Muggle might well appeal to her as well.)