I’ve had a few days now to ponder the Comic-Con trailer for “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald”, along with its depiction of a key teacher at Hogwarts.
I’ve come up something I’m a bit worried about.
Besides the omnipresence of Johnny Depp. Seriously, why did Warner Bros think it was a good idea to bring him out on-stage considering how much everyone despises his casting?!
The newest trailer for “The Crimes of Grindelwald” makes it clear that the series is going back to its roots. After a movie set entirely in New York, we’re now going to get a few visits to Hogwarts, at different periods in history.
This is good news for fans of the famous setting for the “Harry Potter” movies, but it does bring up some troubling implications.
In “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”, Professor Lupin takes advantage of a creature that is found hidden in the castle, turning a shapeshifting boggart into a class exercise in confronting fears.
This is presented as something that Lupin has come up with on his own; a way to make an otherwise dry subject come alive. This is presented in direct contrast to the far less enjoyable teaching provided by Professors Quirrel and Lockhart.
As it turns out, though, Lupin wasn’t coming up with his own fun, wacky ideas for teaching. He was simply copying a lesson that Dumbledore taught years previously.
This seemingly harmless scene robs Lupin of much of his stature as an educator. Apparently, this is a regular part of the Hogwarts syllabus.
The whole point of the ever-changing Defense Against the Dark Arts teaching roster is that it highlights Harry’s own growth in the series.
Quirrel’s lessons are basically harmless. Lockhart is wrapped up in his own fame at a time when Harry is beginning to understand what it means to stand out from the crowd.
Moody/Crouch shows the darker side of magic as Harry begins to mature. Umbridge is the quintessential useless, authoritarian manipulator.
Snape gets the gig right when Harry starts to learn about his past. Finally, Amycus Carrow apparently tortures children in the final book as a reflection of the dark state of the wizarding world.
Remus Lupin is Harry’s favorite teacher at Hogwarts. He shows genuine affection to his class, helps his students out of hours, and crucially, finds ways to make lessons exciting.
Except, apparently, he actually simply steals ideas from Dumbledore.
Maybe I’m more upset about this than I should be, but in fairness, I really like Lupin and I want him to have his due!
I’m worried that if this is what the trailer shows off, there might be more elements within the movie that mess with existing perceptions of key characters.
There’s a blink-and-you-miss-it moment in the trailer where Dumbledore sees Grindelwald in the Mirror of Erised, suggesting that Depp’s character is his greatest desire. I can only hope that this is handled tactfully, considering that Rowling has expressly stated that the movie will (frustratingly) shy away from depicting the two men as former lovers.
I only hope that as we dive back to Hogwarts, we get something meaningful. If we’re making the trip back to the famous school, I want it to in some way aid the film, rather than being provided as shallow fanservice.
Remember when a big deal was made about Ilvermorny, the American magic school? It gained place of pride on Pottermore. Everyone got the chance to learn about the school’s history and houses.
Then, in “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”, the school got namedropped once in a really awkward moment of bad dialogue, before the story carried on without further comment. Ilvermorny was provided as a tiny sliver of inconsequential worldbuilding, and nothing more.
First and foremost, I want “The Crimes of Grindelwald” to be an enjoyable experience. I can only hope that this new movie tells a solid story.
Let’s face it, characterization and narrative structure have always been the movies’ weaker points.
This time, there’s no lengthy novel to fill in all the gaps and actually give fans a meaty experience. What we see in the movie is what we get, which is why it’s so important for our time at Hogwarts to be more than empty fluff that steals ideas from the better parts of previous “Harry Potter” stories.