All hail J.K. Rowling! Jo announced today on her Facebook page that she will make her screenwriting debut with a series of films based on the Hogwarts textbook, “Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them”. Technically, it won’t be a direct adaptation, since the textbook itself is not really written as a story, which means it wouldn’t translate well for a film. Even if it were, it’s much too short for a single film, let alone a film series. Actually, the film series that Rowling is screenwriting tells about the adventures of the textbook’s author, Newt Scamander, who searches for these “fantastic” magical beasts in order to include details about them in the textbook he is writing. Interestingly, these films won’t be set in Great Britain, as the Harry Potter films were, or at least they won’t be at first. The first film will be set in New York during the 1920s, 70 years before Harry Potter goes to Hogwarts.
Take a moment to go read Rowling’s announcement. I’ll be waiting with a few thoughts when you get back.
Upon hearing the news, I suffered a bit from mental and emotional overload. No doubt the entire Harry Potter fandom exploded in a similar fashion upon hearing the news too. However, I’ve taken a step back now, and for the next few moments, I’m going to play Devil’s Advocate. Bear with me.
But didn’t we all say our last goodbyes to our childhoods two years ago? Isn’t it better to have fond memories of fandom day’s past, rather than drag it out any longer?
I hold a very special place in my heart for the StarKid song “Days of Summer” from A Very Potter Sequel. The song’s opening lyrics remind us that the time we spend apart from our friends (especially “fandom friends” or “convention friends”) will keep them in our hearts. “Distance makes the heart grow fonder” is the non-StarKid saying that’s often used in the Muggle world. If that is true for friends, shouldn’t it also be true for fandoms? Time away from the Harry Potter fandom, or the 51 weeks of the year that aren’t LeakyCon, certainly makes returning to LeakyCon all the more precious to me.
But what if LeakyCon were longer? What if, instead of 4 days, it lasted two weeks? I like to think that I would remain firmly on cloud nine for an entire seven days, since I typically arrive some days earlier and stay later anyway, but by the end of the second week, you’d probably find me on cloud one or two, or quite possibly, dead, because I’ve forgotten to eat or drink enough, or possibly because my feet have fallen off.
Do you see my point? What if more movies set in the Wizarding World mean too much of a good thing? What if this “wizarding world” concept gets stale after a while? What if Rowling is dragging this out too long? It’s also worth noting that these movies about “Fantastic Beasts” were not originally Rowling’s idea. They were Warner Brothers’ idea. “It all started when Warner Bros. came to me with the suggestion of turning ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ into a film,” Rowling said in her announcement. This brings me to my next Devil’s Advocate statement.
These movies are simply a ploy for money. Since Warner Brothers no longer has Harry Potter to rely upon for revenue, they need another sure-fire source of income.
Well of course this film series idea is a ploy for money. Why else would Warner Bros. suggest it? Harry Potter has been the most successful film franchise to date. While it is incredibly hard for fans to say goodbye to their childhoods, which were so irrevocably tied to the books and movies, it’s even harder for Warner Bros. to say goodbye to such a guaranteed source of revenue. However, here’s one thing I’d be willing to bed all that I own upon: that the “Newt Scamander” movies aren’t going to be nearly as popular or successful or lucrative as the Harry Potter movies. Be that as it may, they are also guaranteed to make some money, simply by having Rowling’s name associated with them, regardless of who is cast in the movies.
Speculation about who’ll play Newt Scamander in the films has already begun, and Rowling’s announcement is only 13 hours old now. Newt Scamander is likely going to be played by a known actor, because having Rowling’s name associated with the project may not be enough. Unfortunately, the name “Harry Potter” is known the world over probably more for the movies than for the books, because we live in a culture that is more inclined to passively stare at a screen than actively turn a page, meaning that more people have seen the movies than have read the books, in turn meaning that fewer people know who J.K. Rowling is, fewer than true fans might think.
Lastly, I’ve read reports that say not only will a film series be produced, but also a video game series as well as other film tie-in products. Warner Bros. are really going to milk this one for all it’s worth, aren’t they?
What if the movies simply aren’t good?
Granted, Rowling did say the following in her announcement:
I always said that I would only revisit the wizarding world if I had an idea that I was really excited about and this is it.
If Jo is really excited about this project, then that’s awesome and more power to her. Her excitement in the project is more than likely going to translate to an incredible end result. However, let’s remind ourselves of a few things:
- J.K. Rowling is currently writing a crime novel series under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, and the sequel to the first novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling, is scheduled for release next year.
- Rowling is also continuously creating new content for Pottermore.com and also writes new content for the other Sony-related Potter products, such as Wonderbook: Book of Potions, which is scheduled for release in December.
- Rumor has is that Rowling may pen a Doctor Who short story for the 50th anniversary.
- Rowling has said on numerous occasions that she intends to write more stories for children and that one possibility for a future book is a children’s “political fairytale”.
- Harry Potter fans continue to wait anxiously for a Harry Potter encyclopedia. However, my guess is that we won’t see that published until every last ounce of new information has been poured into Pottermore first, and then, maybe not at all. I mention it only because it continues to float around as a possibility.
Do you think maybe Jo has too many irons in the fire? Maybe not, though considering she did pull a fast one on us and publish a book under a pseudonym without her fans knowing about it for several months, perhaps she has much more on her plate right now than we actually know about. That being said, there’s a distinct possibility that she doesn’t have the time to devote to this new project because of all the other projects she’s already started. And if she doesn’t have adequate time to devote to it, what if, just what if, it doesn’t turn out to be a good movie? I’m not even talking about lacking critical acclaim. What if the fans don’t like it? Do you think that’s even possible with our beloved Rowling?
I know many fans didn’t like (or didn’t bother to read) The Casual Vacancy. Many critics didn’t care for it either, some saying it was bad, and others that it was simply boring. And yet, this novel was written by our beloved Rowling. Let’s also not forget that this is J.K. Rowling’s screenwriting debut. She’s never written a screenplay before. What if this format is not her cup of tea? What if she’s better suited (or only suited) for novels?
When Harry Potter reached its conclusion, we were left with the promise from Rowling back then that she wouldn’t write any more novels set in the wizarding world. I accepted that, despite that, at the time, I desperately wanted her to continue the series with the next generation to attend Hogwarts, or better still, the previous generation—and give us “Adventures of the Marauders”. I was expecting Rowling to break her wizard-silence with one of those two routes. But no, she chose to go an entirely different direction and write more stories about Newt Scamander. It was the farthest possibility from my mind and now, here it is, staring me in the face.
And in this moment, I don’t think I could feel any more excitement.
Enough with the Devil’s Advocate. I don’t care how Rowling wants to revisit the wizarding world, just so long as she does! My amazing friend Olivia, a copy editor for LeakyNews, expressed the collective excitement of the fandom so much better than I ever could. Go read her article! But before you go, please take a moment to share your thoughts (hopefully rebuttals against my cynicism) in the comments below.