No matter what you think of the movie itself, we can probably agree on there being too many sequels for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I believe the number currently sits at five, and this seems a tad ambitious considering how the first one isn’t even a month old yet. It brings The Hobbit to mind, another franchise which overstuffed its release schedule.
That said, the only thing I take issue with is the possibility of a cash-grab. As the new film demonstrates, this series has legs. Indeed, Fantastic Beasts trucked along nicely without any mention of Mr. Potter. Much like Star Wars, it’s a universe that can expand in countless directions. How about a crime thriller following Aurors, Harry Potter’s wand-toting detectives? Then there’s a story exploring the underground werewolf movement, Professor Dumbledore’s rise to power, the Salem witch hunts or a dip into international Quidditch. It’s a franchise with plenty of gaps worth filling.
This is where Fantastic Beasts is at its best; it gives us a chance to explore what wizardry looks like outside the UK. In fact, I’d go so far as to say the film offered a sense of discovery that’s been missing after seven books (or eight movies) set in the now thoroughly explored Hogwarts school. The US government building was frequently breath-taking and gave the impression of stepping into unknown territory, for instance. It combined the most iconic elements of 1920s culture with building-wide pipes that carried messages and trench coat-wearing agents of the law. Similarly, going outside of our comfort zone offered surprises that inject yet more flavour into proceedings – I write this with the chilling, clinical execution chamber in mind.
Another (welcome) breath of fresh air was the size of the worldwide magical community. Aside from a couple of European schools that turned up in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, we rarely got any idea how many wizarding societies were out there and what shape they took. The new movie solved that mystery with row upon row of delegates from across the globe. It would appear that Hogwarts et al is one corner of a very large universe.
This raises a question which has bothered me ever since, however. Where on earth were they when Voldemort kicked off his reign of terror? From what I remember, the United Kingdom fought alone on both occasions (pre-Harry and all).
There are explanations for this but few are satisfying. While fan-favourite Remus Lupin explained that He Who Must Not be Named operated secretly during Deathly Hallows, every nation has eyes and ears with which to spy on each other. I’m sure they’d have caught wind that a psychopathic dictator had seized power.
Which leads to the claim it’s an internal political matter. I don’t really think that counts when terrorists are committing mass genocide, though. What’s more, Voldemort’s actions threatened to expose magic itself in the Muggle world. If everyone cared so much about secrecy when a monster tore up New York in the early 20th century, I don’t see why they wouldn’t now.
Maybe the cost of intervening would have been too high. Perhaps some actually agreed with him. The villainous Grindlewald rustled up many followers when he terrorised Muggles across Europe, after all.
Neither is a particularly comforting answer. Still, at least it demonstrates that there’s plenty of life left in the franchise. Although I worry about bottom lines sucking goodwill from a beloved series, sequels give an opportunity to fill out the proverbial map. Twenty years after the first book launched, there’s still a lot to say about Harry’s world… even if he has nothing more to do with it.