~ the upcoming sequel to Rowling’s 2016 blockbuster doesn’t quite have me convinced ~
November 16th 2018 will see the release of the new Untitled Fantastic Beasts film, and to be honest I’m not 100% sure I’m on board. Don’t get me wrong, you’re looking at one of the biggest Potterheads out, and I’m a massive fan of Rowling’s work, but the first movie was a mixed review for me. (you can see my exact thoughts here) The second film in the five movie slate was once again written by J. K. Rowling, directed by David Yates and stars most of the first film’s cast with a few new additions. Despite my thoughts on its plot, Fantastic Beasts was a lot of fun, visually stunning and featured some great performances, so hopefully the next film will follow suit (and fix that weird stuff surrounding the Obliviating Rain). Albeit, I have my doubts, which are as follows:
*WARNING: FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM SPOILERS AHEAD*
Firstly let’s talk about casting. I adored Redmayne as Newt, and Dan Fogler was fantastic as the hilarious Jacob Kowalski. The newer additions to the cast, however are a little more questionable. Jonny Depp as Grindelward was a horrific choice. There, I said it. He turned his version of the character into yet another pale, eccentric weirdo, whilst completely shunning the handsome, brooding, boy-genius foreigner that features in Deathly Hallows. The brief cameo that we got at the end of the first film was barely rememberable aside from a vague sense of being weirded out. Not only this, but Depp has recently proven to be a generally trash, abusive human, so you’ll excuse me if I don’t love him landing another high profile role. What really grinds my gears about this casting is that we completely blew past Jamie Campbell Bower, who not only is an actual angel who would have been able to use his immense talent to step up into his first franchise role, (City of Bones does not count, people) but he already featured in the briefest snippet of Deathly Hallows, as a picture on Bathilda Bagshot’s dresser (of whom Grindelward is a beloved nephew).
I mean yeesh. Talk about a downgrade.
Then there’s the matter of Jude Law as Dumbledore. I’m not going to lie to you, I probably haven’t seen enough of his films to make a judgement on his performing ability, however he just does not seem like the right fit for this role. A “Talented Mr Ripley”- era Jude Law could probably have pulled off a more convincing job, but now he just looks . . . regular. Too regular to be the dashing, talented then Transformation professor we know and love. In saying this, making the young Dumbledore’s character openly gay (we know he loved Gellert Grindelward – how can they make a film about those two without exploring it) would probably solve all of my qualms. *slides Warner Bros $20*
One new addition, however, is pretty much making my entire life. I’m talking Zoe Kravitz as Leta Lestrange. While we did get a brief glimpse of her (again, I’m talking JCB level photo cameo) in the first film, I am immensely excited about seeing her character come to life. Aside from Kravitz being one of the coolest beings out, I think she has the range to take Lestrange in any direction – as the Hogwarts sweetheart defying her pure-blood lineage by loving Newt, or as the slightly wild and erratic but gorgeous lover – a Yin to Scamander’s Yang. After all, she is Bellatrix’s ancestor, so there’s got to be some potential for a little misadventure there. Whatever her arc, I am beyond excited to see the character develop. There are some other castings, like that of Thesus, that are relative unknowns to me – but I am still eagerly anticipating any new characters we get.
Aside from some casting shenanigans, the real issue I think I will have with this film is – how the hell is it going to work? The end of Fantastic Beasts for me seemed very standalone-ish. All the characters’ stories seemed concluded, if a little under-developed, and I can’t see how they are going to continue the squad dynamic or where they are going to pick it up from that ending. While we know that it’s not going to be a direct continuation of those characters and their story, we know that they will feature heavily – Newt helping Dumbledore, and exploring his past relationship with Leta are my main guesses. But for the others I just don’t see how they could be re-incorporated. Jacob’s arc seemed very final and perfect, I have no idea how they could possibly get his memory back (will Queenie play a role?) and as for Tina, she was such a flat character in the first film I find I can’t even think of how her arc could progress, aside from her getting her job back. Fantastic Beasts really felt like a standalone, and using it as the set up to a five-film franchise I think will cause both it and its immediate sequel to suffer.
If only we pretend that it doesn’t have to relate to the first film (spoiler: it does), then the set-up of this second film seems promising. It is apparently set in Paris and a little of the UK, and I have a sneaking suspicion we will see Germany in some way as the young Grindelward’s stomping ground. After Grindelward’s escape, it seems that Dumbledore is the only one who can catch him (20 years of the Wizarding World universe. . . we’ve established that Aurors are pretty useless). He will enlist the help of Newt – as a favourite pupil and also the one who literally just thwarted Grindelward at the end of the first movie.
The timeline for these movies cuts off at around 1945, so there’s pretty much 19 years of possibility for where this film could be set. It has been rumoured that it will open in 1927, a few months after the events of the first film, but no one said they were going to be telling this story chronologically. I, for one, think it would be super cool to maybe jump to the end and then circle back to fill in the timeline. If anyone could pull it off, Rowling and Yates can. Given that whichever film explores the end of the timeline will obviously feature an epic Dumbledore/Grindleward battle (the one over the Elder Wand) and a fairly certain appearance of Ariana, I wouldn’t be mad if it came sooner than 2024. We also know that this time period includes the birth and education of Voldemort, (and the beginning of his Horcrux discovery) and it would be a crime to explore this era on the big screen without it coming up at some point. It’s doubtful we’ll get it this film, but the next few instalments could see that exciting plot point come to life.
Another exciting development is the casting of young Newt, Leta, Dumbledore, Grindleward and a new character called Sebastian. While there has been nothing announced yet, we know the net has been cast (haha) wide, with Pottermore’s twitter announcement early in June.
I smell FLASHBACKS!! There will also apparently be some more obscure Harry Potter references sprinkled throughout the film, much like the first, which is exciting news for us diehard fans. The title is also in the works, for now simply being referred to as “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 2”, but Redmayne has explained in an interview that the rest of the series’ title will follow a similar format to the Harry Potter films, with them all beginning with “Fantastic Beasts And. . . ”
While they certainly aren’t starved for content, I’m a little concerned as to the five film quota that Warner Bros has put forward for these films. Again, Fantastic Beasts was a fairly good time, but unless they sort out their plotholes, I’m not sure I want four more of them. Rowling has said that the arc she is planning requires five movies to flesh it out properly, and I would trust her with my first born child, but it still runs the risk of being a little repetitive. Yates is signed for the next four, as is Redmayne, which are both good signs, but after the up and down rollercoaster that was the opening film, I’m a little wary.
There’s both some exciting and some questionable news surrounding this upcoming film, and indeed the rest of the series. As a massive fan of the Harry Potter world, and a partial supporter of the first movie, I really do want these films to succeed.
But as for the incoming sequel, for now, I’m still on the fence.