While each Harry Potter movie is a continuation of the last, still each one is very different in its tone. This is in part due to progress of the story and the ageing of the characters; there’s a vast difference between ages 11 and 18, but also, of course, the differences come as a result of the direction.
The final four films in the franchise (Order of the Phoenix, Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows Parts 1 & 2) were all directed by David Yates, who took the films down a darker route, similar to that which Rowling created in the novels. Yates now takes the helm of the Harry Potter spin-off movie, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which stars Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander; a wizard in 1920s New York who writes a journal documenting the creatures he encounters on his travels.
This being a spin-off of such a hugely successful and well-loved franchise, comparisons are inevitable despite the many differences. Fantastic Beasts is not set in the same era or country and neither does it feature any of the characters from Rowling’s original books. However, she has written the screenplay, and Yates has spent a considerable amount of time in the wizarding world, so how does Fantastic Beasts measure up to the Harry Potter films?
Interestingly, Fantastic Beasts producer, David Heyman says that the tone of the new movie compares closest to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire; which Yates didn’t direct. Speaking to EW, Heyman described both Fantastic Beasts and Goblet of Fire as very natural, human movies:
“[Fantastic Beasts has] got the charm of the fourth. It’s like the fourth. Mike talked about the fourth as being like an Indian musical — and it’s not that, but it’s got the humor of that film. It has the romantic comedy, that fish-out-of-water humor, that very human, natural character comedy. And now David is always looking for truthful, human moments, it’s never just a gag, he’s grounding [the storytelling moments] in a reality. [Beasts] is very funny, it’s got a big heart, and there’s darkness too.”
The spoiler-free synopsis for Fantastic Beasts is somewhat limited, which is to be expected given that its release is still a year away. We do know that Newt Scamander arrives in New York with his magical, battered briefcase, which contains all the habitats for endangered magical species (think Mary Poppins’ carpet bag, or even the TARDIS!). It is made clear that the wizarding folk go to great lengths to conceal their magic from the No-Maj (American word for Muggles) and it’s also hinted that some of Newt’s fantastic beasts could well escape.
This would, of course, give the opportunity for plenty of humor to be present. Previously-released set photos also seem to hint at a possible romance between Redmayne’s character and Tina Goldstein, played by Katherine Waterston (Steve Jobs) in Fantastic Beasts (see the image of the pair, above).
Many regard The Goblet of Fire as a turning point within the Harry Potter franchise. With the death of Cedric Diggory and the rise of the Death Eaters, the story becomes much darker and more intense. This is offset both in the book and in the film by plenty of humor and light-hearted storytelling as Harry competes in the Tri-Wizard tournament. With at least two Fantastic Beasts sequels lined up, will this movie follow a similar vein?
If Heyman is accurate in his perception, then Fantastic Beasts could be the movie that gently eases us into this new franchise, with a fun story containing great characters and plotlines, with a few dark twists to keep us entertained. Following on, we could well see each film becoming darker and more ‘adult’ as Newt’s story progresses.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them opens in U.S. theaters on November 18th, 2016.