1:10pm PT by Graeme McMillan
How Long Before 'Fantastic Beasts' Outgrows Its Core Cast?
As was announced before Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was released, the movie will be the first in a cycle of five films that tell one singular story, as decided by franchise creator (and Harry Potter author) J.K. Rowling. But after viewing the first pic, the question has to be asked: How many will involve the same characters?
It's not merely that Fantastic Beasts more or less ties up the loose ends from its primary story by the time its credits roll — it helps that the film's central narrative is relatively simple, of course, consisting of the dual plots of "Will Newt find his missing monsters?" and "Will Percival Graves' plot to ignite a race war be successful?," neither of which are really in question considering the status quo of the latter Harry Potter world that fans know so well. But, beyond that, there's the fact that so much of the movie is spent setting up stories that purposefully don't play out in Beasts itself — and don't really include any of its central cast.
It's noteworthy that the opening and closing of the movie center on Gellert Grindelwald, a villainous threat that, despite the Scooby Doo-esque climactic reveal, is essentially absent for the majority of the movie, yet purposefully left at the end gnashing metaphorical teeth and announcing that he'll be back. Of course he'll be back; that was obvious just from the simple fact of casting of Johnny Depp in the role in the first place — you don't bring him on as a villain just for three minutes of melodrama, although he certainly provides that. Similarly, Zoe Kravitz as Leta Lestrange is a genuinely nonsensical casting decision if it weren't for the sequels — why cast such a notable actress to play a photograph?
Also lampshaded is the importance of Langdon Shaw, younger brother of murdered U.S. Senator Henry Shaw Jr., who gets a scene to rant about the existence of witches and wizards for no obvious reason other than foreshadowing.
Rowling and director David Yates are clearly trying to set up the events of all future Fantastic Beasts stories in the first film, but what's interesting is how disconnected all of them are to the first movie's cast. Outside of contractual demands, what would bring Jacob Kowalski or Queenie Goldstein into what looks to be a large-scale story about conflict inside — courtesy of Grindelwald — and outside — via Shaw — magical New York society? Beyond tortured coincidence, why would Newt cross the Atlantic again at exactly the same time as the subsequent events take place? What, if anything, will any story featuring the existential threat of Grindelwald or Shaw have to do with the discovery or care of fantastic beasts of any sort?
As beloved as the core foursome from the first movie may be — and at this point, who can even tell if that's the case — none of them have any personal connection into the threads left dangling by the first film, with the arguable exception of Tina and the missing Credence. Without that, not only would the mechanics of pushing them into each new story would become increasingly obvious, but the repeated appearance of the same characters randomly connected to major events would make the fictional world seem smaller when just the opposite should be true.
It's possible — likely, even — that what lies ahead between Fantastic Beasts and the existing Harry Potter canon is on a scale that goes beyond the first movie (we already know that it involves Dumbledore, who just earned a mention in this initial installment) and builds out the mythology in a direction that abandons the quartet of leads from the first episode. There are many other stories to tell in the Wizarding World, after all. The question is, how long before the filmmakers realize that?