The Back Story We’re Not Told (Yet): Second Thoughts about J. K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them

fb21Is Newt Scamander working as Dumbledore’s secret agent in Fantastic Beasts? I think so.

Last Sunday I posted my first thoughts about J. K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts screenplay-as-filmed and the response to that  post has been rewarding and exciting. If you haven’t read that long-playing post, please do. The short version is that Rowling, whose Harry Potter series and individual novels were written on the traditional story-telling turtle-back template of hyper-parallelism (tagged ‘Ring Composition’ by anthropologist Mary Douglas), has not departed from form but has written her first screenplay on the same model. The blowback in my inbox this week, from Potter Pundits who have seen the film but not read the screenplay text, and from two traditionalists who have read the screenplay but not seen the movie, has been uniformly positive.

In the week since I wrote that post, Fantastic Beasts has been blowing its competition out of the water in box office sales. Reviews have been positive for the most part but, really, do Potter-philes read reviews to make the go/no-go decision? We’re all but obliged to see the film and read the screenplay, if only to keep up in conversation with other Harry-heads about Newt’s adventures (and complain about while secretly looking forward to seven years of Harry Potter on teevee beginning in 2018).

fb30Today, the day after Thanksgiving in the United States, I want to take the next big step in understanding Fantastic Beasts to fuel those conversations. In this marathon discusssion, I’ll be pointing out the probable parallels we should expect, not between scenes in this movie, but between Rowling’s series artistry here, just begun, and that of her Hogwarts Saga, complete, and her Cormoran Strike mysteries, of which unfolding work we have the first three books. I think there are significant pointers in the first Beasts installment about what the five film franchise will divulge just as there were in Harry’s Philosopher’s Stone and Cormoran’s Cuckoo’s Calling. Hint: it’s the back-story to-be-uncovered in each chapter.

The big reveal is that Scamander and Grindelwald are already well known to each other — and that Newt’s mission impossible from a certain Transfiguration professor is to find and subdue his nemesis.

If you haven’t seen the movie or read the published screenplay, you might want to stop here. If you’ve already enjoyed the story once or twice (or more) in the week since it opened, join me after the jump for a first sally in what very well may be an almost decade long adventure in story interpretation and speculation. [Read more…]

Louise’s Belated Fantastic Beasts Response

fb-pictureI couldn’t hit the opening night of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them because I was attending the Morality, Moral Philosophy and the Humanities in the Age of Neuroscience Conference, so I decided to wait until my daughter was home from college so we could go as a family. As a result, I have been avoiding spoilers for almost a week. Last night, after we got home, I went through a bunch of Hogpro posts, emails and my copy of the screenplay that had been sitting in its cardboard Amazon box since last week. So, after bit of day-before Thanksgiving cooking, and a nice hot cup of cranberry wassail, I’m finally sitting down to write my initial response.

I share the positive response of most other Wizarding World fans: it was a well-written, exciting film that fills in part of the backstory of JKR’s magical world without infringing on (or re-writing) any of Harry’s story. Newt was a lovable if unlikely hero, the Goldstein sisters strong female leads and Jacob Kowalski a delightful Mary-Sue character for all Muggles:  the No-Maj who got to be part of the Wizarding World, albeit for a short time. Add that to the speculation that Queenie and Jacob’s descendent will eventually play Quidditch on the US team, and you have the ultimate wish fulfillment for many fans. [Read more…]

Is It a Ring? First Thoughts on Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them

newt-scamanderThe movie made from J. K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them screenplay is a visual ring composition. I have not received my copy of the screenplay yet (come back Wednesday of next week for more on that) but, having watched the film yesterday and taken four pages of notes in the dark, I can say the film’s scenes conform to the chiasmus or ring formula that anthropologist Mary Douglas describes in her Thinking in Circles and which J. K. Rowling uses as something of a template for her Harry Potter and Cormoran Strike novels.

If you haven’t seen the movie and don’t want to be spoiled, okay. That paragraph should be your last. If you have seen the film and would like to see how Rowling brought her ring artistry to the third draft of her screenplay, I’ll see you after the jump. [Read more…]