On Sept. 13, J.K. Rowling made an announcement that longtime Harry Potter fans have long been waiting for: she’s once again going to be writing in the Harry Potter universe, and this time it is something completely new. Rowling is working on the screenplay for a film about the magizoologist Newt Scamander, best known as the author of “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” Set 70 years before Harry’s time in jazz age New York, the story will not only give fans a look into the life of Newt Scamander, but a whole new perspective on the wizarding world we know and love.
Even before the news was confirmed, my Twitter and Facebook feeds were flooded with happy statuses in all-caps. All day, my Potter friends texted me and came up to me between classes to ask if I had heard. Fans everywhere are as excited for this new movie as Hagrid was when Norbert hatched, when Colin Creevey found out he was going to be in the same house as Harry Potter and when Oliver Wood won the Quidditch Cup combined.
Except for the fans worried this new installment will not be good enough. It’s fair to be worried, but expecting that the story of Newt Scamander will be better than, or even as good as, the story of Harry Potter is setting the bar too high. I’m sure Rowling will do a fantastic job making us care about Newt, but we will never care about him as much as we care about Harry. There’s just no topping Harry Potter—Rowling has said that herself. Harry Potter defined the childhood of a generation. This Newt Scamander film is just that—a film about Newt Scamander. Approaching this spinoff with the mindset that if it’s not as good as Harry Potter, it’s no good at all, sets you up for disappointment before the first trailer even comes out.
No, this film won’t have anything near to what the eight Harry Potter films had going for them, but it’s got something else instead. As a bigger fan of the Potter books than the Potter movies, I’m excited about this new installment because it can’t be ruined for me by the book. When I sat in theaters for the other movies, there were always 300 to 900 pages worth of preconceived notions clouding my vision. The movies were a mixed bag for book fans. I’ll never say no to a Harry Potter weekend on ABC Family, but I have enough problems with the movies to mar my enjoyment of most of them. Sir Michael Gambon’s Dumbledore was too angry, Bonnie Wright’s Ginny was too boring, I can’t believe they cut out the Quidditch World Cup, where was Peeves the whole entire time, why on Earth did they burn down the Burrow—I could go on.
But this time, there is no book. I won’t have to go into this movie with any idea of what the story should be like because no one knows the story of Newt Scamander, at least not in its entirety, except Rowling herself. We know he was a Hufflepuff, we know he wrote “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” we know he became headmaster of Hogwarts and we know Luna married his grandson, but we don’t know much more than that. I can’t speak for other book fans, but I walked into every new Potter movie with my fingers crossed. Now, we can all see a movie about the wizarding world with our minds as blank slates.
I’m sure some Potter fans, emphasis on the ‘Potter,’ are wondering why they should care about a story set in the wizarding world that isn’t centered on Harry Potter. Maybe you’d never heard of Newt Scamander before the new movie was announced, or maybe your response was, “The guy who wrote ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them?’ So what?” While you may not care about this new character yet, every Potter fan should be excited about this new installment for a few big reasons.
First, Hufflepuffs get a new character to represent their house, which they haven’t really had since Cedric Diggory died (RIP). Second, since the story is set in New York, we will, hopefully, finally learn about American wizarding schools. Third, Dumbledore was friends with Scamander, and, in fact, wrote the introduction to “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” so we’re almost guaranteed an appearance by a young Albus. Last, and biggest of them all, we should be excited about this story because Rowling is excited about it. Perhaps you would have preferred a story about Dumbledore’s youth or the Marauders at Hogwarts, but out of all the things she could have written about in the Harry Potter universe, Rowling got excited enough to write about this.
Give Newt a chance, if for no other reason than that the last time Rowling got excited about a story, an odd little idea about a school for wizards and a boy named Harry Potter, it turned out alright.