Wizards, Witches, and Warner Bros, Oh My

For someone who didn’t read a Harry Potter book until college, I’m a pretty big fan.  Doesn’t matter that I didn’t grow up with the series; I love reading the books, watching the films, sinking into the cozy world of wizards and owls and manageable mischief.  Christmas, particularly, is a time when I feel compelled to fire up the DVD player and the John Williams soundtrack.

Alas, the books and movies had to come to an end eventually.  And over the past year or so, it seems the scope of the Harry Potter merch is diminishing.  Yes, I can still get a House Scarf if I wish, but most of the passionate fans have turned elsewhere.  It’s completely reasonable.  I wouldn’t even want a sequel, because the story of Harry and his friends is pretty much complete.  So is the wizarding passion, it would seem.

Or so I thought.  But in the last week, JK Rowling and Warner Bros have announced that they’re teaming up on new projects, the most notable of which is a film inspired by the Hogwarts textbook Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.  The film is intended to be the first in a series, and is not directly related to the Harry Potter story.  Though it is set in the same wizarding world, it takes place 70 years earlier, in New York.

It’s big news for several reasons.  First of all, yes, it’s another moneymaker for Warner Bros and perhaps that’s all that matters to some.  However, JK Rowling has not simply handed over the keys to her empire; she’ll be more involved than ever, as the film will mark her screenwriting debut.  It may not be in the form of another book, but we’ll be getting an expansion of the universe penned by Rowling herself – something many have wished for.

Personally, I’m rather excited by both the change in time and location.  Granted, Diagon Alley and many aspects of the wizarding world had a sort of timeless Victorian air to them, and it should be fairly easy to get a similar vibe in early 20th-century America, but obviously there will be differences – and those will be refreshing.   Not much has been mentioned about US witches and wizards as I recall, except a throwaway reference to Salem in Goblet of Fire.  It will be fun to see a new, different corner of the universe fleshed out.

Perhaps some will view this news as a sign that Rowling is retreating back into a comfortable and profitable world, instead of continuing to explore the world outside Harry Potter.  To this, I say, “Irrelevant.”  First of all, her novel The Casual Vacancy, while not being “the next Harry Potter,” was successful regardless and is being adapted by the BBC.  And if she does prefer to write about witches and wizards, what’s wrong with that?  It would be a shame if she simply churned out more books without a good story to tell for the sake of profit, but it doesn’t seem like that’s the case; at any rate, she’s certainly no starving artist.  Why not write what you love?

One good point about a new film instead of a new novel: it ensures that the story will be first and foremost, as opposed to a dry compendium like The Silmarillion (I admit I’m biased, I know several who adore that novel).

Ooh, something else to consider: the casting for the Harry Potter films was extensive and decidedly British.  Does this mean we Americans may finally get a shot at being an extra in a Rowling film?

What are your thoughts on this news?  Would you rather the book on the wizarding world stay closed, or are you practicing your wand flourishes even now?  

 

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