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Why I'm Excited about the 'Harry Potter' Spin-Off

By Corey Atad | Think Pieces | August 22, 2014 | Comments ()


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I’ve done a lot of complaining about the modern Hollywood machine. Every movie these days needs to be huge, loud and turned into a multi-billion dollar franchise. It’s ultimately inescapable, and it’s wearing me down, making me jaded. Some projects break through my jaded shell, though. One such franchise-in-the-making is Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, better known as “the Harry Potter spin-off.” I shouldn’t be excited. I know I shouldn’t. A spin-off from a beloved franchise? Clearly this is nothing more than a cash-grab. And yet…

And yet I look at how this “new” film franchise is being put together and I can’t help thinking it has every opportunity to be something great and original. All the pieces are there, and history backs it up as well.

J.K. Rowling

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First and foremost, J.K. Rowling is the reason I’m excited. She cares about her creation, and while the temptation to retreat to the world that brought her success is there, I don’t believe she’d do this movie if she weren’t sure of her ideas. And she’s not just doing this movie, she’s writing it. For Rowling it’s a chance to venture into a new medium, planting her creativity directly in the visual medium, rather than relying on another screenwriter to adapt her work. There won’t be questions of the quality of adaptation. This movie series will be direct from the source, and that’s exciting to me.

New York

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One of my favourite details of this new series is its setting. From what’s been revealed so far, the movie will at least begin in New York, and probably jump to other locales thereafter. I love this. Much as the Harry Potter universe is already well sketched and expansive, I’ve often felt it quite insular. The story is very British, and it can be difficult to envision the way the world works outside that country. By going global, Rowling is set to expand our understanding of the universe she created. It also offers plenty of chance to give audiences something new, despite being a spin-off. Plus, setting it in the 1920s, and all over the world, means this series won’t be a prequel of any sort, which satiates fears that we’ve got another The Hobbit trilogy on our hands.

David Yates

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Yesterday, reports surfaced that David Yates is the likely candidate to take on at least the first film in this new Potter series. Yates, of course, directed the last four films in the Harry Potter, and in the humble opinion of this writer, his films are easily the best in that series. While Alfonso Cuarón did great work establishing the darker tone that came to define the series, I find his entry problematic. His direction, while stylish and energetic, often favoured the frenetic pacing and terrible humour over getting into the hearts of the characters. Yates, coming after Mike Newell’s ham-fisted and boorish approach, took what Cuarón had done, and grounded it. He made the vast world revolve around the emotional states of his characters, and that’s evident from the opening frames of his first film.

With the two-and-a-half films that followed, Yates experimented with unique styles to further reflect his characters’ emotions. Half-Blood Prince features the beautiful cinematography of Bruno Delbonnel, who also worked on Amelie and Inside Llewyn Davis. Delbonnel’s hazy, monochromatic visuals serve to heighten the teen romance of the film, as well as the murky memories and harsh pain of Harry’s predicament, all in equal measure.

In that sixth film, Yates also encourages the quieter moments that really make the series sing, including a beautiful scene in which Professor Slughorn tells Harry a story about his mother. He also filmed my favourite scene in the entire series. One that never appeared in the books, but so perfectly encapsulates the emotional heart of Rowling’s creation. After Ron has abandoned his friends in the seventh film, Harry hears a Nick Cave song playing on the radio, and to cheer up Hermione, even if only for a moment, he takes her hand and begins to dance.

That seventh film, which so many have complained about as being boring, and pointless, easily stands out to me as the best in the series, precisely because of scenes like that. It also has the beautiful animated “Tale of the Three Brothers,” which is one of the most inspired moments in the series. The film is sad, contemplative, haunting. It’s like a character-focused indie movie in the middle of a huge tentpole franchise.

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To me that’s what Yates brought to the cinematic world of Harry Potter. In my opinion, the fact that he’s the one to bring about this offshoot franchise is wonderful. It tells me that Rowling and producer David Heyman are looking for more than just a sure hand. They want someone who can ground this series, make it stylish, and above all make it human. And considering the state of studio filmmaking these days, we could use more humanity in our blockbusters.

Corey Atad is a Staff Writer for Pajiba. He lives in Toronto.




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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • narfna

    Agreed, on all counts. Especially the Rowling-written script. As far as I'm concerned, that's like a pre-movie stamp stating ASHLEY WILL LOVE THIS.

  • Wilma

    What I really like about this project is that it isn't an adaptation, but is written just for the film. I love the amount of detail that went into the Harry Potter books and it really was impossible to get this across in the span of two hours. I still hope someone will turn it into a television series one day.

  • Emily Smith

    I was talking about this with a mate yesterday. While there's definitely enough material to do a Game of Thrones style show (because let's face it, if you didn't read the books a LOT of shit in the movies wouldn't make sense), the movies were so well cast that I'm not sure I'd be able to watch a show.

  • emmalita

    I would watch the hell out of a tv show.

  • Emily Smith

    I'm so torn on this. Because I would love to see each book get a season, so that everything can be explored properly, but there are so many roles that I just cannot imagine another actor in.

    That said, having a Harry whose eyes actually resemble Lily's would probably sell me. I got over Daniel Radcliffe having blue and not green eyes, but that young Lily they cast for DH2? No, Harry, you very much DO NOT have your mother's eyes! GRRRR!

  • delle

    Okay as I was skimming down the front page looking at header pics I read that as "Fantastic Breasts & Where to Find Them", and had a moment of where-the-fuck-am-I?
    Then I realised that no, I hadn't accidently wandered off the Pajiba site, and that yes, my eyes had been engaged in a little wishful mis-reading. At least it was a Harry Potter-related article so as to soothe my let down.

  • BWeaves

    I did the same thing.

  • Now I *REALLY* can't wait till the Monday night in 2016 you'll spend tweeting about how much you hated this movie.

  • Ruthie O

    I'm so damn excited. Any excuse to return to Rowling's world, which is so fun and detailed. The only downside, which I face after finishing any Harry Potter entry, is the crushing realization that I am still not a wizard.

  • Repo

    I agree on almost everything here, except I absolutely love Goblet Of Fire so we don't see eye to eye there.

  • Aaron Schulz

    GoF is good but i cant get past wishing they had said screw it and put out two movies for it. The book is so long and we lose the breakup of the Weasley family for the purposes of time and thats a shame.

  • thatsmrsnyder

    I absolutely love Voldy's introduction, but the rest is a mixed bag in my opinion.

  • Rebecca Hachmyer

    I stopped watching after the third film (but will still occasionally do a massive reread of the series) but this makes me want to check out the later installments.

  • Jamie Dello Stritto

    That's funny...I re-watch the movies several times a year and I always start with the 3rd or 4th one. I haven't seen 1 or 2 since the first time I saw them.

  • emmalita

    I did see all the movies, but none of them came close to what was in my head when I read the books. I don't remember a lot of the stuff that Corey refers to, so I may watch them again.

  • Berry

    That's exactly when I stopped watching! Although for me there was never any firm decision to never see a Potter film again. I just didn't feel any need to see them, so I kept thinking maybe I should, because I love the world, but then just going meh, I'll save my money for something else.

  • Rebecca Hachmyer

    You didn't write a cutting letter to the editor of your regional paper renouncing all future films and then try to burn down the local theater? I guess the cheese stands alone.

  • Berry

    Ha ha, I should have, but it was a busy week.

  • thatsmrsnyder

    I couldn't agree more. There seems to be a lot of animosity on the web about Yates' involvement, but I can't think of anyone I would rather direct it. He did fantastic work with the latter half of the main series, and knows the world and mythology as well as anyone. His skills with the actors and behind the camera grew with each series as well.

    In other words? Bring it on. Give me more.

  • JustOP

    The time period's especially interesting, and has always been something I wanted Rowling to expand on. I really liked the fact that the rise of Voldemort coincided with WW2, and it always seemed to me that she was doing some silent storytelling there.

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