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Maybe it’s a silly question to ask. We know that they absolutely can and do work, with varying degrees of success. But are they necessary? Depending on who you talk to, any film related to Hogwarts or Azkaban or The Boy Who Lived, is definitely necessary.
Harry Potter fans across the globe prepare to head back to the wonderful Wizarding World from the inventive mind of the great J.K. Rowling with the release of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a spin-off from the excellent Harry Potter films. No doubt die-hard Potter-heads are going all in for the premiere and given the massive success of the Potter franchise, there are super high expectations for this new film to meet or succeed.
At the time of this writing, the film is tracking strongly with a solid 85% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which by the Tomatometer standards, sits nicely among the Potter films. With long-time Potter film producer David Heyman, director David Yates, the man who directed the last four Potter films and the visionary herself J.K. Rowling all involved in the project, there is no reason the film should be less than a stellar addition to the Potter-verse.
Long before this film was finished with production, it was announced that Fantastic Beasts would grow from the single film into a full-on trilogy. This sounds like wonderful news for Potter fans, right? However, doesn’t this also sound familiar? You may recall, dear reader, when news of J.R.R. Tolkien’s much beloved classic The Hobbit, was not only getting the big-screen treatment but that it would evolve from the originally planned two films to a trilogy. This was exciting, but how everything ended up might have made you question whether or not a Fantastic Beasts series would suffer the same fate. “Cash grab?” you might ask. What’s so wrong with letting a story maintain its resonance?
It seems like every time we look up these days there is some big film coming out that is somehow tied to a previously released property that was successful in some form. It’s either a sequel, a spinoff, a prequel, etc. You get the idea. Often there are conversations about the lack of originality that gets put out by the Hollywood system and we question that. Studios ultimately are all about what can make them more money, right? So if a property is successful, why not revisit it as much as you can to get the maximum amount of return on your investment? This seems to be what is happening. If there is a tried and true formula in the mix and it’s working, then there is no real reason to change it. Seems like pretty simple logic.
That said, there is a legitimate question to be asked in all this which is, can an argument be made to justify the existence of a film that revisits an older property in some way? Do these films deserve a chance? These questions lead to other questions that wrestle with the notion of freshness, right? What is that key fresh aspect can you bring to this well-known (or in some cases little-known) property? What is that new thing that this new film can bring to the table? If those questions can be satisfyingly answered, then presumably, there might be fewer problems from an audience perspective.
Off the top with Fantastic Beasts, you automatically have something fresh to give an audience who is very well-versed in Potterisms. You have completely new characters to follow and care about, new settings to explore and a whole new story to know, one that hasn’t really been told. This is probably the most exciting aspect of this new film.
Spinoffs can be tricky things. There are quite a number of them out there that aren’t as good as the source material from which they came. X-Men Origins: Wolverine, for instance. But there are a few really good ones too, like Puss In Boots from the Shrek series. From the looks of things, it seems that Fantastic Beasts was put together with great care. It should work well and fans of the Potter-verse believe that it will. We will see for ourselves soon enough. Until then, Expelliarmus!