Writers Corner: Harry Potter, Fantastical Beasts and the Inevitability of Icebergs

Bear with me, I promise there is logic to my madness, as random and unrelated as my title choice may seem. This post comes in response to the announcement by JK Rowling that she will be once again re-entering her world of Harry Potter, witchcraft and wizardry for the silver screen. Here’s the official statement from her on her website http://www.jkrowling.com/en_GB/#/news-events/latest/jk-rowlings-statement-regarding-her-screenwriting-debut. Long story short, it will be a screenplay, written by the author, based on the (fictional) book Fantastical Beasts and Where To Find Them and it’s author Newt Salamander. I actually own this book, having purchased it when it was made available as part of a charity effort which means I was quite surprised at this announcement. This was for two real reasons.

Firstly, I found FBAWTFT a fun read but only because of Harry’s scrawls beside all of the different entries. The information itself was not much more than could have been gleaned off a Wikipedia search of each creature as a lot of Rowling’s creatures are already established mythological creatures which just personal tweaks. Now, being a Harry Potter geek, I know that Rowling’s world is much bigger than is ever shown in the main series, as illustrated in any interview with her, or indeed all her exclusive material on Pottermore. However, I can’t help but wonder if Salamander will have the same appeal Harry did. She’s going to have to go some to make us actually care about a character that, at the end of the day, was just an empty name to most readers (albeit a brilliant tongue-in-cheek name). It seems the sort of thing that would prove to be a fantastic short. A twenty minute film on Pottermore perhaps when you unlock the book but I’m dubious as to its full length potential.

Secondly, I know a lot of reports have said fans are very excited that Rowling is stepping back into the world, there having been a lot of calls for her to do so. However, I’m pretty sure few would have called this one. I love her world as much as the next person but there is still going to be a call for Hogwarts (though Salamander does eventually become Head Master of the school), Dumbledore (perhaps in his younger days), Quidditch and all the fun things that made the world fall in love with her work in the first place. I guess my point is, this isn’t the story that would have been top of my list. Just read some fanfiction to see what I mean. I would have loved a movie exploring the original gang (Mooney, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs) and how they met and James/Snape/Lily story. Or the one that always bugged me the Lupin/Tonks story. When or how did they end up together, married and with child? Or, of course, the most popular of all, the story of the offspring… the next generation… so I guess my point is, this may not prove to be what fans are expecting.

Which brings me to Icebergs.

Every series, if you ask me, has an iceberg. Anything long running, beit a book series, a TV show or a movie franchise, is just a very long journey. An ‘Iceberg’ is when something bad interrupts that journey. In some shows it doesn’t happen for years (if ever… see Firefly) and in others it happens the moment season two starts (see Smash). I call it an Iceberg because normally it starts as something small – often in TV it’s the getting together (or worse, cringe, marrying off) of the two lead characters SPOILERS for which both ALIAS and Chuck are perfect examples. After that moment, both afore mentioned shows, particularly the latter which got cancelled mid-season went downhill dramatically. Chuck season five is some of the worst TV I have ever watched. Hence Iceberg, a small problem that hides bigger and bigger problems until the hole is too big and the boat sinks. It’s true of the book world too. Clive Cussler should never have allowed his son nor Dirk Pitt Jr. to take over his books… from an avid reader I now avoid them in the library. And (I may offend here) House of Night should have ended books ago. The story is now so far twisted and beyond anything anyone is willing to believe is remotely possible that, again, I find myself not really caring what happens next. Some icebergs can be overcome, it’s not always the end. I did think Castle had hit a bit of an iceberg at the end of season four (as much as I wanted that ending as much as the next fan) but actually it turned out to be amazing for the show. (Unfortunately I’m holding my breath to see if this is even remotely true for season six). Or James Bond. I think most people will accept that Quantum of Solace was a huge iceberg. I’ve never met someone who understood what the hell went on in that movie. But then they scored a bullseye with Skyfall.

Which brings me back to Harry Potter. Every fan in the globe was gutted to know that seven books was all we were going to get. Just like with anything good, we craved more. But because it ended, it never had time to sour. In short, it never hit it’s book Iceberg (in movie form I think Movie 5 is as big an iceberg as anything can hit but thankfully they had Rowling’s material and a giant rethink to pull the rest back on track). I’m a little worried that this is Potter’s iceberg. I might be wrong. I hope I’m wrong. I hope this, and any other project proves to be just as brilliant as the series that spawned it. I just can’t help but feel, with it’s left-field nature, its by-definition (and by 70 years) removal from the world we know and also (though this could just be because I’m a book geek) the fact that we aren’t getting it as a book first, it has all the hallmarks of an iceberg.

Whichever the way, be assured I’ll be queuing up with the best of them, wand in hand, ready for another journey into the magical unknown.