Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them arrives in theaters this weekend, marking our return to the wizarding world on the big screen for the first time since 2011’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. This new film takes place some 70 years before the events we know from Hogwarts — and across an ocean to boot. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t connected with the original saga. We already know from a not-at-all-subtle Deathly Hallows symbol (as well as some other details that are too spoilery to list here) that the new series will feature at least some connections with the original story. We just don’t know exactly what.
So we’re here to speculate. And dream. These are the original-story connections we want to see the most in the Fantastic Beasts saga.
Dumbledore and the Elder Wand
Mallory Rubin: It’s hard to properly convey the euphoria that washed over me when news broke in early November that Johnny Depp would be playing Gellert Grindelwald in the Fantastic Beasts movies. I don’t have any particular fondness for Depp, but I have boundless enthusiasm for what the big-name casting promises: Grindelwald is going to be a big part of this story, and that means a real, meaningful, tangible connection to Harry’s world. It means Dumbledore. It means the Elder Wand. It means that I’m finally committing to the Deathly Hallows tattoo I’ve been threatening to get for years.
Director David Yates isn’t even trying to hide Dumbledore’s forthcoming appearance; he’s openly courting casting suggestions. Her Holiness J.K. Rowling certainly isn’t shying away from the films’ inevitable deep dive into Dumbledore and Grindelwald’s shared history; she’s saying completely fucking awesome things like: “This is something that I knew a lot about when I was writing Potter, but it was pre-history. It was hinted at in the Potterverse. Now I get the chance to say what I know.”
NOW SHE GETS THE CHANCE TO SAY WHAT SHE KNOWS! And I can’t wait to hear and see it all. Like Harry, I’ve never been able to fully shake everything that we learned in Deathly Hallows about our favorite headmaster’s misguided youth. There’s so much more that I want to uncover and understand, and since no one’s giving me unfiltered access to Dumbledore’s Pensieve, these films must be my Marauder’s Map, the doorway into my very own Room of Requirement.
Here’s the already established canon: Grindelwald and Dumbledore bonded as boys. Tantalized by the intellect and ability they recognized in each other (and maybe something more), they plotted world domination, as precocious and powerful youngsters sometimes do. When a kerfuffle with Albus’s brother Aberforth got out of hand and Dumbledore’s sister Ariana was killed, the cowardly Gellert fled. But he didn’t hide. Years after adopting the sign of the Deathly Hallows as his personal sigil, he stole the incomparable Elder Wand from Gregorovitch, the famed wandmaker. Grindelwald rose to power, spreading hate and fear, and built a prison to house his enemies. And then, in 1945, he wound up encased in the fortress he’d built after Dumbledore challenged him at last, besting him in the most legendary duel the wizarding world would see until a 17-year-old boy with messy hair and a scar on his forehead conquered the most evil wizard of all time.
That’s a lot. But it’s also not nearly enough! Would you have been satisfied if someone had told you that between heading to an Albanian forest and dying at Harry’s hand Lord Voldemort “rose to power”? Of course not! You’d want to know about the Horcruxes, and the Death Eaters, and his baby mama Bellatrix. You’d want to chase every bit of backstory the way Harry seeks the Golden Snitch.
And that’s what these films are going to allow us to do. We’re going to see Dumbledore, auburn hair and beard aflowin’, at the height of his power, fierce and willful and desperate to atone for past misdeeds. We’re going to see The Deathstick, “the meanest” of the three Deathly Hallows, carve out territory and wreak havoc. Thrillingly, we’re going to see that Wand of Destiny switch hands from Grindelwald to Dumbledore, setting into motion the wand-lore driven magic that allows another hero to best another villain in a crumbling Great Hall many installments and many decades down the road. Fantastic Beasts will undoubtedly give us new characters and story to cherish, but it’s also going to give us the strings of sugar from which our cherished seven-feathered quill was spun. That’s not misguided fan service. It’s for the greater good.
Ben Lindbergh: There’s a type of Game of Thrones fan who would fast-forward through the fighting and fornicating to find out more about the Iron Bank of Braavos. The same type of Harry Potter fan would walk by Hogwarts and Honeydukes to get a glimpse of Gringotts. While the respective sagas’ ostensible heroes are focused on White Walkers and Dark Wizards — which, admittedly, are also pretty important — the real heroes are running the secretive banking monopolies that keep the sellsword armies fed and the Hogwarts Express on schedule. If you want to know how your favorite fantasy world works, follow the money.
Fantastic Beasts and its several sequels will take us from 1926–45, a time of upheaval in both the Muggle and wizarding worlds. We’ll learn a lot about Grindelwald, whose career arc paralleled Hitler’s, and who will probably look less and less like Johnny Depp as he descends into darkness. (Which is just what Depp wants.) With any luck, we’ll see tender Dumbledore and badass Dumbledore, and we’ll watch Grindelwald wield the Elder Wand. It’s all potentially great movie material. Just not as great as a Gringotts Black Tuesday ticktock.
Rather than wallowing in old metaphors, J.K. Rowling should be giving us the Gringotts inside story we’ve (I’ve?) always wanted. How did hyperinflation in the Weimar Republic after World War I affect Gringotts’s Reichsmarks-to-Sickles exchange rate? Is there a goblin board of directors? Did Gringotts keep its gold in Galleons, or was it wiped out from irresponsible speculation when the London Stock Exchange crashed in September 1929? Will a Probity Probe stop a bank run? Where do British goblins go on bank holiday? FDR was talking about bankers when he delivered his line about fear, but there’s nothing more frightening than the prospect of four more Fantastics that can’t find a few minutes for finance.
The Weasley Family
Jason Gallagher: I need a Weasley. Any Weasley. Preferably Arthur Weasley’s parents.
You will never convince me that Arthur and Molly Weasley aren’t the best things to happen to the Potter universe. They’re laid-back, funny, surprisingly badass, and most of all, they fight for good. I’m not talking about brawling with Death Eaters (they do that too … sup, Bellatrix). I’m talking about fighting for something more important — equality.
Quick backstory: The Weasleys are one of 28 families in the “Pure-Blood Directory” even though they reject the notion that pure-bloods are in any way superior to Muggles, Muggle borns, half-breeds, or half-bloods. Advocating for tolerance and acceptance is the Weasley way. So much so, they earned the derogatory title “blood traitors,” which Arthur and Molly wear like a badge of honor.
One last thing on Arthur: He was obsessed with Muggles. Picture a Ringer staffer’s obsession with Barb or Westworld Reddit … but way worse. He even went on to flex on his fellow pure-bloods by writing the Muggle Protection Act! So Arthur and Molly are basically the Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren of the Potter universe and I’d give my life to them right now, even though they’re entirely fictional. #WeasleysOrDie
I need to meet Arthur’s parents. Maybe it’s far-fetched, but according to Pottermore, the Weas-gods had “connections with almost every old wizarding family in Britain.” If my man, Newt (Eddie Redmayne), is as well-traveled as we think he is, it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility that he crosses paths with another red-haired champion for good. And what a delight it would be, especially now.
Wizard Boarding Schools
Amanda Dobbins: Harry Potter is a story about magic, and family, and love, and finding the extraordinary in the ordinary, and all sorts of other important literary and fantastical themes. It is also a pretty classic “fun times at school” series. I love school stories: The Secret History, The Group, Dead Poets Society, Prep, Mona Lisa Smile (lol), the first half of Brideshead Revisited before they do all that sad Catholic shit. “I peaked in high school” is a truly terrible way to live your life but a great mission statement for novels and books. So, bring the wizarding schools back! Give me a nice ivy-covered American school with a grumpy dean and an exchange program with Hogwarts; I will give you my patience through all the nonsense cribbed from the Beasts textbook. Education is the future. Invest.
Justin Charity: The principal cast of Fantastic Beasts is significantly older than the principal cast of the original Harry Potter film series — even by the time the second Deathly Hallows movie rolled out, when Daniel Radcliffe was 21. Fantastic Beasts stars Eddie Redmayne, who is 34. I note this disparity because the core quality that appealed to me in the original book series as well as the original film series wasn’t the actual magic itself, but rather the figurative magic by which a school full of petty, horny, frustrated adolescents grew to face a massive threat of tyranny and annihilation. (My favorite Harry Potter book is Order of the Phoenix.) I wanna see some teens! This trailer is not showing me teens. I worry that Fantastic Beasts will basically be BBC’s Sherlock, but with magic — which, hey, hmm, now that I write it out, doesn’t sound so bad at all.
Zach Kram: What was the worst part of the Star Wars prequels? Well, besides mopey, pubescent Darth Vader and white papers on interplanetary trade policies and everything to do with Jar Jar Binks? I should clarify: The most subtly annoying part of the Star Wars prequels was George Lucas’s ham-handed insistence on cramming the original series’s characters into the new movies’ plots. Did we really need to see Yoda interact with Chewbacca? Or Anakin build C-3PO? Was the “Oh, I know that guy!” moment worth the narrative somersaults such character insertions demanded?
Let that serve as a lesson to the Fantastic Beasts team. There’s no need to show us the Gaunts on holiday in Manhattan or young Horace Slughorn messing around with a chemistry starter kit; outside Dumbledore and Grindelwald, who seem as if they have actual roles to play, we don’t need cursory glimpses of anybody from the first seven books. There’s a danger here, too: Newt Scamander’s adventures are set to occur in the 1920s, which places the births of Voldemort, Hagrid, and Moaning Myrtle all within range of this movie and its successors. If Tom Riddle’s orphanage ever appears on screen, I’ll know this imploration has gone unheeded.
The Potterverse is rich in history and lore, and without Harry’s narrative centering the story, the star should be magic itself — the world it inhabits, the minds it excites, and the fantastic beasts it creates. Let those aspects shine. Leave the characters we already know out of the tale.
Everything — Literally
Kate Knibbs: I’m really interested only if my girl Hermione Granger or my beloved Snape are involved. While seeing Young Dumbledore could be cool, Dumbledore was a sociopath who emotionally manipulated children for political purposes and I really don’t need to see his angsty teenaged tête-à-tête with Grindelwald played out onscreen.
This is a very unpopular opinion, but I’m here for a complete remake of the Harry Potter series on film. I would be thrilled if Fantastic Beasts turned out to be just a straight up retelling of the OG saga. The original movie franchise ranged from charming (Azkaban) to perfunctory (all the Chris Columbus joints). Alan Rickman was impeccable, but the frustrating thing is, Harry Potter didn’t have to be one of those situations where the movies pale in comparison to the books. The books are awkwardly written and pulpy, just like Mario Puzo’s The Godfather. They could be brought to the screen in a better way. There are like 42 Spider-Man movies, just give me ONE more go-around with Harry and the gang.