Image: Warner Bros.
I didn’t particularly like Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I found it to be a C- movie at best with two immensely likable characters (Jacob and Queenie) who felt like worthy editions to the universe but otherwise it had nothing else terribly compelling to offer. If it was just a one-and-done standalone feature, I wouldn’t really give Beasts much thought outside of “Hey, remember Queenie and Jacob? Those two were great; too bad they had to be saddled with that annoying dork with the giant bird and Queenie’s sulky sourpuss of a sister.” But therein lies the problem.
Harry Potter is now a franchise in perpetuity and so Fantastic Beasts is of course becoming a series. That’s the reality of show business at the moment and it isn’t a deal breaker for me. I love Star Wars, James Bond and Marvel and DC, and those institutions have refused to conclude since before anyone even heard the phrase “franchise in perpetuity” (if Disney hadn’t bought Star Wars, the now defunct Expanded Universe would have gone on until the end of time). A cultural touchstone like Harry Potter was of course going to follow suit.
I’m going to get the unpleasant business out of the way first: the pre-release period of Crimes of Grindelwald has just been a parade of unpleasantness. Johnny Depp’s continued presence in the series. The initial erasure of Albus Dumbledore’s sexuality (hopefully that isn’t the case anymore). The Nagini-is-actually-a-person business, which is both stupid and probably racist. All of the above makes me leery of giving this franchise any more support.
Those are all significant problems and they are stacked on top of the fact that I didn’t even like the first movie and that I find the direction Beasts is taking to be baffling. If this series was just about Newt having whimsical adventures with silly magical creatures then it would be a harmless distraction. But because it also has to function as a five goddamned part prequel series about the global wizarding war, it’s a bloated mess instead. If you wanted to make a Dumbledore versus Gellert Grindelwald story why not just make that? Why does it have to be shown from the perspective of wizard Steve Irwin? And if you absolutely must capitalize on one of the peripheral Harry Potter books, then why not just choose Quidditch Through the Ages and make a magic sports movie franchise? That’s something no one’s seen before.
There’s already a great deal of talk about J.K. Rowling turning into prequel period George Lucas. I don’t really have anything to add to that, though the Nagini reveal is pretty much on the same level of Darth-Vader-building-Threepio in terms of “Who the hell asked for this?” Creators losing touch as time progresses is an extremely normal career arc. I can live with the fact that I won’t like the Beasts series, but Rowling’s and Warner Bros.’ continued support of the credibly accused domestic abuser headlining their shared blockbuster franchise is much harder to swallow.
I’m currently re-reading Harry Potter, in addition to re-playing the LEGO Harry Potter games. This series is a huge deal for me and will always be a big part of my life, almost as much as Star Wars is. As you could no doubt tell by this article’s headline, I haven’t come to any satisfactory conclusion. I probably will see The Crimes of Grindelwald at some point; it’ll make a billion dollars with or without my ticket purchase. But whereas going to see the Harry Potter movies always felt like the best kind of adventure, seeing new installments of Fantastic Beasts just feels like a chore at this point.
The Millennial Nostalgia Industrial Complex is real.
It reared its head over the holiday weekend in the form of not one, but two marathons. The Harry Potter marathon on the channel formerly known as ABC Family wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, but coupled with the Disney channel airing every single one of their original movies, it created a force of devastating nostalgia overload.
Millennials on the older end of that generational spectrum are no doubt already aware of this, but if you’re in that sweet spot between late ’80s and early ’90s? This might be news to you; you are now just old enough to notice that the “Hey, remember how awesome this old shit you loved as a kid is/was?” marketing apparatus is now being pointed directly at you. We saw the beginning of this with the launch of Pokémon GO, and there is only going to be more of it as we get older.
This doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing, but seeing as Generation X has had to deal with a deluge of hot donkey shit made from adaptations of stuff they loved, we should absolutely be prepared to deal with it. The new Power Rangers movie could very well be awful enough to generate multiple existential crises. Accepting that possibility now will make coping with it later much easier. In the first grade, I used to sprint home from school (we lived in walking distance) to catch episodes of Power Rangers and sometimes I would practice their fighting moves while I watched. Nothing will take those memories away from me; not even a shitty Power Rangers movie.
I hope everyone had a lovely weekend, regardless of what you were doing. If anything, we should feel lucky Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon didn’t decide to jump on the nostalgia bandwagon. That would have been a bloodbath.
My first encounter with Alan Rickman was in a movie theater at the age of nine when my parents took me to see Galaxy Quest. Granted, it was many more years before I came to fully appreciate the intricacies of that particular film; both as a parody/homage of all things Star Trek and also as a pretty good action-adventure/comedy feature in its own right. But even at that young of age, Rickman stood out as Alexander Dane, a formerly respected, Shakespearean-trained British actor who loathes his typecast-inducing role as Dr. Lazarus on Galaxy Quest’s namesake TV series and how his career now consists entirely of convention appearances. Why, it was not unlike the way a certain Severus Snape loathed that Harry Potter kid in these books I was reading around that time…
I don’t quite love the Harry Potter films as much as I used to. I still like them a great deal and I still drop whatever it is I’m doing to sit down for one of those all too frequent ABC Family Potter marathons like any self-respecting Millennial but they always fell short of true greatness. That being said, Rickman was one of a handful of Potter actors who were so perfect that “perfect” feels inadequate. Along with Dame Maggie Smith as Minerva McGonnagall, Robbie Coltrane as Rubeus Hagrid and Richard Harris as the superior Albus Dumbledore 1.0, Rickman’s Snape was the closest any literary character has come to stepping right off the page and coming to life onscreen. It can’t be overstated how much these actors, and Rickman in particular, elevated the Potter flicks.
And of course, there’s that other huge role of his. I first watched Die Hard when I was 12-years-old (the perfect age for a first time viewing of that movie) and when Hans Gruber first appeared on screen, the first words out of my mouth were “Hey mom, Snape is in Die Hard!”
Speaking of Snape, I don’t think I can put into words how huge Rickman’s impact has been on the HP generation. During rereads of the series, it is impossible to not hear his iconic, cutting delivery whenever Snape speaks. I don’t mean to brush aside Rickman’s near 40 years of film, TV and theater roles but that is a hell of an achievement. I’ve never been a member of the Team Snape sub-fandom in the HP community (some of those “always” tributes are already making me cringe) and I likely never will be. But I can also say that I’ve never had, nor will I ever have, any discouraging words to say about Rickman’s masterful performance as the divisive potions master. The guy was too damn great to dismiss.
Rest in peace, Alan Rickman. By Grabthar’s hammer, by the suns of Worvan, may you sit on a beach earning 20 percent while bottling fame, brewing glory and putting a stopper on death.