Rune Magic in Fantastic Beasts? I Wish

A long time reader and frequent correspondent sent me a note this morning encouraging me to watch a YouTube video about the likelihood of Runic Magic becoming a major plot element in J. K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts movie series. It’s called Runes, Nordic mythology and Durmstrang in the upcoming Fantastic Beasts movies The video is a relatively short view at twelve minutes but I think, alas, it was about ten minutes too long in terms of reward-per-viewing-minute.

Color me ‘skeptical,’ even shades of ‘dismissive’ on this speculative leap about runes, which, truth be told, I wish were true and think would be consistent with the base-line idea of Rowling’s Wizarding World and it’s “magical parameters.”

Here’s the thing.

With the exception of the Pentagram Room and background visual-noise created by MinaLima, what evidence is there of any runic magic in Beasts or for the speculations in this video? And the MinaLima artistry, engaging as it is, seems to have been created independently of script mentions or direction. Which is to say, not from any instruction we have in the published ‘Original Screenplay.’ Not that I’m embracing that version of the screenplay as authoritative, original, or final!

I love ‘out there’ speculation, as you know, about where, figuratively speaking, the series writing of J. K. Rowling – Potter, Strike, or Beastie — may be headed. I’d be much more comfortable, however, even enthusiastic with this leap into the abyss about Runes and Durmstrang if it was based on something, anything more textual and Rowling-related than two Icelandic actors and MinaLima magically resonant wallpaper flourishes. [Read more…]

Unlocking Fantastic Beasts: In Search of the Shooting Script ‘The Round Up Post’

Cursed Child was the run-away best-seller for J. K. Rowling in 2016, but outside of thespian Potter-philes with pockets deep enough for travel to London and tickets, enthusiasm for the so-called ‘Eighth Harry Potter‘ has been short-lived. The Presence approved the story but it didn’t show many of her signature story-telling magic.

I’ll go out on a limb to make a prediction I doubt anyone will remember and say that 2016 will be recalled by fandom much more for the first Fantastic Beasts film than for Cursed Child. There’s a lot more to talk about, really, in speculating about where the story is headed and the artistry and meaning of Rowling’s return to the Wizarding World than there is in thinking about Harry Potter as a father failure and a Time Turner tsunami.

The real challenge in talking about Fantastic Beasts 1: Newt Goes to New York is that we have to try to isolate Rowling’s work from the Heyman-Yates mish-mash of a movie. As Rowling said Steve Kloves told her, the agony of making a movie out of a Rowling novel or script is “fitting the woman to the dress,” i.e., forcing the natural figure into the mechanical formula of blockbuster movies.

Can we re-create Rowling’s actual ‘Original Screenplay,’ the approved shooting script out of which Heyman-Yates cut 15 scenes that we know about? When the published ‘Original Screenplay’ does not include the sliced scenes — and doesn’t even match up with the movie as released?

We can, but it’s still a work in progress. Here’s a reminder of where we stand in the effort, our first stabs at interpreting the recreated texts and the underlying, re-invented mythology (Theseus!), and what we have left to do. Enjoy! [Read more…]

Fantastic Beasts: ‘Original Screenplay’ Compared to Actual Film – What the Movie Makers Changed or Left Out

A Team Effort Guest Post by Kelly Loomis and myself! At my urging, knowing her skills as a literary detective, Kelly watched the Fantastic Beasts DVD with the ‘Original Screenplay’ in hand. She noted any differences between published text and released movie. We already knew that the ‘Original Screenplay’ was actually not the shooting script, which included at least fifteen scenes, props, and plot points that didn’t make it to us in the theaters. Kelly’s check of ‘Original Screenplay’ with the actual movie reveals that there are even major differences between the film and what seemed like just a transcript with enter-and-exit stage notes and descriptions. Enjoy her findings and our shared thoughts on their meaning!

When I heard that JK Rowling would be writing the screenplay for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, my Potterhead self was excited and gratified. “Now,” I thought, “the film wouldn’t be missing the important details she weaves into her writing!”

I have been disappointed again.

First, as we’ve seen from John’s Fantastic Beasts posts about the shooting script and deleted scenes, the final film product is very different from the initial story Rowling approved for filming. The many cut scenes disappointed serious Rowling Readers as they were crucial to what we felt were key elements of the story. I’ve put a Round-Up of John’s posts below about the grand canyon separating the shooting script and the movie released last November and even the DVD we have now.

Second, incredibly, even the published ‘Original Screenplay’ doesn’t match up with the movie. Having compared the one with the other, scene by scene, I‘ve found that even the final printed screenplay is different in some areas than the film. Prompted by John, I’ve put these into writing for you all to ponder.

The good news? The “original” in ‘Original Screenplay’ used to seem ironic if not flat-out dishonest. What I’ve learned from comparing the published text, however, has shown me that this book is not just a transcript. It’s another window into the shooting script that Rowling wrote and approved for filming.

I list after the jump all of what I found. All citations are from the first edition of The Original Screenplay of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. All opinions are subject to 180 degree shifts consequent to your corrections! [Read more…]

Popular Culture and the Deep Past 2017: The World of Harry Potter (A conference report)

PCDP-HP flyer jpegOn February 24-25, I was privileged to participate in The Ohio State University’s Popular Culture and the Deep Past 2017 conference, hosted by the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. This year’s focus was “The World of Harry Potter,” and though it was a local conference for me, it brought together a far-flung set of Potter scholars, as well as thoughtful fans (some in period attire!) with engaging questions and contributions to the conference.

The conference’s call for papers asked for submissions that would IMG_1631“explore historical and cultural strands that tie the Potter world to its medieval and early-modern antecedents,” while “exploring the interface between the past and the present.” This resulted in a conference which investigated fruitfully what is “medieval” about Harry Potter (short answer: a lot) and how our favorite books appropriate and reinterpret medieval elements, themes, motifs and history to spin their epic tale. After the jump, I’ll provide a brief sampling of the most delectable dishes from this Potter thought-feast. (A list of all the talks with links to longer descriptions of each can be found here.) [Read more…]

That Easter Moment: Eucatastrophe in the new Beauty and the Beast

beauty-and-the-beast-2017Disney’s new live-action adaptation of the classic animated musical Beauty and the Beast has a lot of people talking. Actually, it has me singing. As a young teen in 1991, I had the musical memorized. As I sat in the cinema this past March at age 40, I had to keep one hand over my mouth to keep from belting out lines like, “I want adventure in the great wide somewhere…” and “I use antlers in all of my decorating!” It’s now been weeks since I saw the new movie, yet Beauty and the Beast earworms remain. (She writes, muttering, “…don’t believe me? Ask the dishes!”)

So it has us talking and singing. And why not? There’s lots to talk (and sing) about. The new film makes some significant adjustments to 1991’s script and story: new songs, updated lyrics, additional backstory. The changes do more than simply re-heat and re-serve an animated classic. Beauty and the Beast 2017 spins the “tale as old as time” for a modern audience. Three changes interest me the most, the third in a timely way. [Read more…]