About 2 weeks ago I friend invited me out to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. It was my first time stepping back into the Harry Potter Universe in about 7 years, and it really intrigued me. I wasn’t sure exactly why at the time, but this world that J.K. Rowling had created had suddenly captured my attention in a way none of the prior films had.
Now I should probably get this out of the way early – I have never read any of the novels, and I hadn’t even gotten around to seeing the final two films (Part 1 and 2 of The Deathly Hallows). I won’t bother getting into the details on why, but feel it’s important to let that information be known before continuing.
Leaving the theatre after having watched Fantastic Beasts, my mind swirled with dozens of questions; I was overcome with a huge desire to learn more about this fascinating universe. I decided my next course of action would be to watch through the prior eight films. It took me a few weeks, but just last night I finally made it through the final two. Unfortunately, I don’t really feel like I’ve gained any of the answers I was seeking. Looking back and being able to better compare now with everything fresh in my memory, I feel as though the world in the Fantastic Beasts film is presented more in broader concepts vs the Harry Potter films which deal with specific characters. In Fantastic Beasts we’re introduced to segregation between magic users and mortals, and this is done using Eddie Redmayne’s Newt as a great surrogate to the audience. In contrast, Newt introduces the audience to the idea that seemingly everyone else is scared of and misunderstands the titular creatures that Newt is studying. This works well because we’ve already started to relate to Newt’s fish out of water character, so we are open to listening to what he has to say about the creatures. We also get a villain in Fantastic Beasts whose motivations can be understood and that we can even potentially sympathize with. All of these things go a long way to welcoming a newcomer like myself and leave me wanting to know more about the world, and not just what happens next.
With the Harry Potter films, we very much are given Harry’s story. We are told about what happens to Harry. We are told Voldemort is bad and is out to kill Harry. Over and over again we seem to be told about things instead of shown them. Harry didn’t grow up knowing about magic, and yet he somehow doesn’t seem to work as a surrogate for me; he doesn’t ask the questions I see myself asking in his shoes. In situations where Harry does ask an appropriate question, he isn’t always given a satisfactory answer and doesn’t pursue things further. Somehow after getting through the eight Harry Potter movies, I don’t actually feel like I know any more about the world. I just happen to know another story that takes place in that world. I enjoyed the films for what they were, but can’t help but feel disappointed that I still have all of these unanswered questions.
I have little doubt that I would be more satisfied if I were to read the books, and that is what I plan on doing next. I am willing to bet that J.K. Rowling does go more in depth on multiple subjects in the books that, for whatever reason, the filmmakers felt wasn’t necessary to detail in the films or just couldn’t fit into the runtimes.
I hope to revisit this topic in the future once I eventually read through all of the novels. Unfortunately I don’t expect that to be any time soon, so I do want to end with a few quick quibbles I have with the films and that I hope get addressed in the books. I only write these down to serve as a reminder to me for when I look back. I welcome comments on whether or not you felt the same, but don’t particularly wish to have anything answered for me here.
- The mudblood hate came out of nowhere in the second movie and hope is given a better introduction and some backstory and reasoning in the books
- Voldemort’s motivations seem extremely vague in the films. Does he just want to live forever? I’d hope to know more about this after reading the books.
- Things seem to turn into a nazi-Germany like situation in the blink of an eye within the Ministry in the Deathly Hallows films. I truly hope this is expanded upon and perhaps better seeds are planted along the way.
- My vague understanding points towards something happening to change the climate of the Wizard/Muggle relationship in Britain between the 1920s and 2000. I sure hope this is touched on somewhere in the novels.
- Dumbledore. In the Deathly Hallows we are given the tiniest of details on his family history and are told there is a scandalous book written about him, but I don’t recall any of the details really being revealed to us. There’s a brief mention of his sister, but that’s about it. Looking back, I don’t even truly feel as though we are given a great reason for Harry to have such unyielding faith in the man.
- Harry’s family and how they are so intricately tied to both Voldemort and Snape. I’m especially curious about Harry’s father, who is perhaps the character with the fewest details presented to us in the films. The only stand-out detail I recall from the films is that he was kind of a bully in his youth and I have little to no understanding as to why people seem to have any respect for the man as an adult.