PITCH: A Revised Harry Potter Prequel

fantastic-beasts-the-crimes-of-grindelwald-breakdown-7 (2)
(Bui 2018)

So, it’s been a week since Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald was released which also marks the first weekly anniversary of my childhood not only being destroyed, but pulverised, mashed-up and excreted, like one big heaving pile of sh*t. You know what though, despite complaining to every one of my friends and family for whom I have encountered since my viewing of the new Harry Potter prequel, I have managed to retain a sense of hope. I love the idea of a Harry Potter prequel, it’s just that I loathe how these new sets of Fantastic Beasts movies have been executed lately. So, I thought, what’s the point of complaining when I can just find a solution? So, here’s my solution – my own Harry Potter prequel.

Now, I’m no big Hollywood screenwriter (obviously) and I’m not J.K. Rowling, but I am a HUGE HUGE HUGE fan of Harry Potter; a fan that once wrote his own Harry Potter fanfiction for fun (*cough* “Harry Potter and the Armour of the Eight-Eyed Knight” *cough*) so I thought maybe I should give you guys a vision of what I would like to see from a Harry Potter prequel… and it doesn’t revolve around Newt Scamander and his briefcase full of fantastic beasts… not entirely at least…

•••

Elevator Pitch:

Set in 1940, the film has the audience swept away, back to the magical and fantastical world of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The Second World War has begun as political terror rises in the world of muggles whilst, running adjacent to the Nazi regime, dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald, master of the Elder Wand and persuasive tongued cult leader, amasses his forces to take charge amidst the chaos. Tucked away in Hogwarts School, serving as an escape route from reality for the troubled children (and audience), Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Albus Dumbledore emerges as the only wizard capable of thwarting Grindelwald’s plans. Dumbledore is forced on a mission spanning the wizarding world in order to prevent Grindelwald’s reach from expanding; for the fate of humanity lies on the shoulders of the Professor with a twinkle in his eyes.

•••

Director:

As I noted in my Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald review, the Harry Potter films managed to stay fresh because they swapped out directors with every few movies. Having David Yates, carry on from the last few Harry Potter films straight into Fantastic Beasts seemingly sealed the deal that the movies would not feel original or fresh. So instead, I feel the prequels need a new director to at least set the tone and no other director comes to my mind better than Paul King.

Director of the two heavily acclaimed Paddington films, King is not only an obviously talented filmmaker but also, to be frank, a very British one. King’s style strikes me as a combination of the family friendly characteristics of Chris Columbus (director of The Philosopher’s Stone and The Chamber of Secrets) and the charming British entertainment appeal of Mike Newell (director of The Goblet of Fire). King not only knows how to work with CGI, but also intertwines his films with a sense of undeniable magic – like the Paddington films – to the point that his visionary perspective makes a lot of sense to freshly rework the Wizarding World for a new audience… also, he’s currently making a Willy Wonka feature and a Pinocchio feature, so come on, he must know how to do fantasy pretty well.

•••

Plot:

So, here’s a rough plot I formulated for the film;

The year is 1940 and the Second World War has begun. An unknown European town falls under attack from supposed bombings as children hideaway under order of their parents. Flashes of fire and light obscure the children’s vision. When the attack ends, the children find their parents dead but are approached by a stranger who offers them an escape, after informing them they’re wizards and witches. The children are welcomed into the stranger’s assembly, as, unbeknownst to them, it was the stranger and his followers who laid waste to the town in the first place. The stranger reveals himself to be Gellert Grindelwald.

In Godric’s Hollow, two boys meet and befriend one another whilst visiting a graveyard; Professor Albus Dumbledore watches these events of himself and Grindelwald meeting in 1899 via the Mirror of Erised in a basement chamber at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The school year has begun at Hogwarts as it has come to the attention of the staff that most students have not returned, neither enrolled. The new Transfiguration teacher, Minerva McGonagall, arrives after her transfer from the Department of Magical Law Enforcement from the British Ministry of Magic. She is immediately taken under the wing of past Transfiguration teacher turned Defence Against the Dark Arts instructor, Dumbledore, as the two share leadership of Gryffindor house. Dumbledore is continuously approached by students on stresses of how to further defend themselves in war time with some even asking for ways to prevent attacks from muggles. The Ministry send Aurors to Hogwarts to request Dumbledore assist in locating Grindelwald; Dumbledore refuses, leaving the Ministry to apply an advanced Trace on Dumbledore assuring he does not leave Hogwarts until Grindelwald is in custody.

McGonagall interrupts Dumbledore who continues to observe Grindelwald in the Mirror of Erised, to which Dumbledore reveals to her his past forbidden relationship with the dark wizard. During a Defence Against the Dark Arts class, Dumbledore observes a third-year pupil whose boggart transforms into a dark cloud to which he takes as a serious matter; the young Gryffindor, Chastity Barebone, asks Dumbledore to help save her brother whom went missing over the summer. Dumbledore later informs McGonagall that the cloud was a rare piece of dark magic called an Obscurial – a power that can only be found in magical children who undergo psychological or physical abuse and ultimate repression. Dumbledore deduces that Grindelwald is amassing an army of Obscurials to cause chaos, being that no Auror will willingly battle children. Dumbledore decides to go against the Ministry’s orders by locating his magizoologist, ex-student Newt Scamander, who remains off-grid, last seen in China. Hogwarts Headmaster, Professor Armando Dippet, agrees to cover for Dumbledore on the proviso he takes McGonagall as a valuable ally who knows the Ministry’s Law Enforcements back to front. Dumbledore begrudgingly agrees.

Meanwhile in Austria, Grindelwald approaches the young Credence Barebone (Chastity’s brother), assuring him that the only route to freedom is surrender and release; Grindelwald encourages the children that their built-in rage and aggression is natural and must be released to prove their cause. Utilising illegal portkeys, Dumbledore and McGonagall arrive in China to learn more about Obscurials from Scamander, who appears to them amidst documenting the activity of a Chinese Fireball dragon. Scamander reveals that his studies have shown more Obscurials to appear in recent years due to the stresses of World War Two, particularly in Europe. Followers of Grindelwald ambush the trio who are saved by Scamander’s beasts from within his expanded briefcase; they capture one of the followers and interrogate them into revealing Grindelwald’s next move to be an interception of Circus Arcanus, a travelling disgraced freak show that’s said to hold many Obscurial prisoners. Dumbledore and McGonagall manage to convince Scamander to join them in their mission to infiltrate Circus Arcanus in Moscow, Russia. The trio travel by train, due to their inability to apparate, only to be caught up in a further skirmish as Grindelwald’s followers attempt to capture Scamander. The trio are forced to escape via apparating, subsequently alerting the British Ministry and subsequent Aurors to their whereabouts.

The trio lay low at Russia’s wizarding school, Koldovstoretz, courtesy of Dippet’s connections. On the night of the Circus, with Moscow crawling full of Aurors, McGonagall overhears a heated argument between Dumbledore and Scamander to which she realises Dumbledore’s sister Ariana was an Obscurial and its because of Grindelwald that she died. Scamander refuses to take part in the attack on the Circus as a bickering Dumbledore and McGonagall go it alone. The duo find the Circus to have been a rouse by Grindelwald, allowing him to freely invade Koldovstoretz without interruptions. Pursued by Aurors, Dumbledore and McGonagall apparate to Koldovstoretz where Dumbledore confronts Grindelwald. Credence steps between the two wizards and explodes into his Obscurial, giving Grindelwald the chance to escape. Aurors arrive, destroying the untamed Obscurial as Dumbledore instructs McGonagall to return to their dorm whilst he surrenders to the Aurors alone. Upon arriving back at the dorm, McGonagall finds that Scamander has been kidnapped by Grindelwald’s forces.

As winter dawns, McGonagall returns to Hogwarts without further Auror suspicion whilst Dumbledore faces interrogation within the British Ministry of Magic. Scamander finds himself in Grindelwald’s mercy; imprisoned in an under-construction castle called Nurmengard in Austria. McGonagall, upset over the past year’s events, is asked by Dippet to take a trip to the Hog’s Head Inn in Hogsmeade. There, McGonagall meets Albus’ brother Aberforth who, still bitter over Ariana’s death, refuses to show his face to McGonagall, residing in the shadows. Aberforth reveals that Dumbledore’s guilt consumed him to the point he kept alive Ariana’s Obscurial; the most powerful of its kind. McGonagall figures out Dumbledore must have intrusted the Obscurial to Scamander as she sets off to rescue Dumbledore from the Ministry. Before she leaves, Dippet hands her a Time Turner and tells her that he has arranged for the two to gain a getaway mobile to Moscow where backup shall await them.

In order to break out Dumbledore from the Ministry, McGonagall transforms into her cat form; the two catch a ride on the Night Bus, courtesy of Dippet, to Moscow whilst evading Aurors. The two reunite with the staff of Hogwarts at Koldovstoretz, as the group formulate a plan to siege Nurmengard and rescue Scamander and the children. Before enacting said plan, McGonagall reveals to Dumbledore her own forbidden lost love with a muggle and how, because of her ignorance, she chose to end the relationship; she informs Dumbledore that he’s not alone as she too understands his pain, to which Dumbledore places complete and utter faith in her.

At Nurmengard, Grindelwald tortures Scamander into revealing the location of Ariana’s Obscurial. The Hogwarts staff arrive at the prison only to find Grindelwald has enslaved starving and weakened Allied and Nazi soldiers alike to help construct Nurmengard. As the staff rescue children and battle Grindelwald’s adult followers, Dumbledore locates Newt in his cell. The cell doors seal closed behind him however and Newt transforms into Grindelwald, to Dumbledore’s shock. Grindelwald argues that magical children must learn their value as rare, powerful souls as Dumbledore realises that the children Grindelwald has seemingly abducted are not all Obscurials. Instead Grindelwald appears to truly care about the children and wishes to raise them in order to defend themselves in a world of evil muggles, eventually taking their rightful place atop the food change. Grindelwald reveals he wants to save the Obscurial children from themselves and use their power to hurt the muggles as the muggles have them. Dumbledore pleads with Grindelwald that there are other ways to help the children, however Grindelwald dismisses Dumbledore’s intentions and, revealing Scamander’s briefcase obtaining the Ariana’s Obscurial, loosely reveals his plot. Grindelwald plans to use Ariana’s wayward Obscurial to destroy Durmstrang Institute, the school for which abandoned him in his time of need, and in doing so, begin a series of attacks to destroy wizarding schools globally and raise the children in a new order.

Grindelwald apparates to Durmstrang but not before enchanting the Allies and Nazi prisoners to battle the Hogwarts staff, as they begin to devolve into Inferi. The prison soon becomes overloaded with magical booby-traps and monsters alike as Dumbledore is faced one on one with an evilly enchanted Scamander. Grindelwald arrives at Durmstrang where he rounds up remaining Christmas staff and students, requesting for the children to join him, despite many resisting. Grindelwald is left confused by the children’s denial of his aid, enraging him entirely and leading him to release the Obscurial from the briefcase, only to learn the case to be a fake. Meanwhile Dumbledore, having subdued Scamander, learns he made a swap; Scamander gives Dumbledore the real briefcase, hidden in his breast pocket. Assured by McGonagall the staff can hold their own, Dumbledore apparates to Durmstrang to battle Grindelwald. McGonagall, in the meantime, saves the soldiers by using the Time Turner to revert their gradual and ghastly transformation.

Upon Dumbledore’s arrival, Grindelwald forces Dumbledore to surrender the briefcase in exchange for hostages. Dumbledore hands Grindelwald the briefcase as, just as he does so, the briefcase, with Dumbledore’s illegal portkey enchantment, transports the two to Godric’s Hollow. The opponents viciously duel over the briefcase despite Dumbledore’s sadness in doing so. Dumbledore recognises his inability to beat Grindelwald in combat (due to Grindelwald’s control over the Elder Wand) so instead Dumbledore is forced to release his sister’s Obscurial in an effort to not only defeat Grindelwald but also officially let go of his sister – and his guilt. The Obscurial overwhelms Grindelwald, forcing him to submit to Dumbledore. Dippet arrives with a slew of Aurors who arrest both Grindelwald and Dumbledore. As Grindelwald is taken away, he asks Dumbledore “shall we die, just a little?”.

Following the Christmas holidays, Dumbledore is cleared of all his charges and returns to Hogwarts. He reveals to young Chastity that he was unable to save her brother and later relays to McGonagall his inner-turmoil of being unable to protect every child. Dumbledore meets with his brother at the Hog’s Head Inn and apologises for past actions despite Aberforth’s unwillingness to forgive his brother, revealing the scar Dumbledore and/ or Grindelwald left across his head. To make amends in his life, Dumbledore decides to change his method of teaching Defence Against the Dark Arts to incorporate awareness of the Second World War and its causes, such as Obscurials, in order to prepare his students for troubled times ahead but also reassure them that everything will be ok.

Towards the end of the school year, Dumbledore receives a letter from Grindelwald for whom escapes custody around the same time. Grindelwald apologises to Dumbledore but admits he will never back down from his plans as he believes them to be necessary; Grindelwald signs the note with the Deathly Hallows symbol. Dumbledore, overwhelmed with emotion, returns to the Mirror of Erised and smiles at what he sees.

•••

Cast of Characters:

  • Jude Law as Professor Albus Dumbledore, the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. So, I’m keeping Jude Law as Dumbledore – he’s perfect in the role and the only thing I unapologetically loved in the Fantastic Beasts movies. I’m sure everyone can agree.
  • Colin Farrell as Gellert Grindelwald, a dark wizard and champion of the Elder Wand. Farrell was wasted terribly in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and considering he’s one of my favourite actors, I feel he deserves a second chance. If you have ever seen Farrell in productions from Martin McDonagh or Yorgos Lanthimos, you’ll know how perfect he is to play a sinister, but sympathetic, villain.
  • Claire Foy as Professor Minerva McGonagall, the new Transfiguration teacher at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and past employee of the Ministry of Magic’s Department of Magical Law Enforcement. Now, I realise in the novels McGonagall was born in the 1930s, but I feel retconning the character to exist in this time frame works purely to give Dumbledore a partner whom we, the audience, already care for and have a built-in interest with. No retcon is bad unless it’s for a good reason and Claire Foy would play the perfect counterpart to Law’s Dumbledore; assertive and intelligent with the ability to teach Dumbledore valuable life lessons, as he equally teaches her how to broaden her mind.
  • Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander, a magizoologist and ex-student at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I like Redmayne’s Scamander in Fantastic Beasts, but he suits a supporting, one-off role above all else.
  • Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Seraphina Picquery, the Head of the British Auror Office. A soft reboot of Carmen Ejogo’s President of MACUSA in Fantastic Beasts, but instead she’s British AND she’s a kick-a** Auror, played by another Black Mirror legend.
  • Ruby Barnhill as Chastity Barebone, a Gryffindor student at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. This youngster completely sold me after her turn in The BFG with a Matilda-like performance; so adding Hogwarts student to her resume makes a lot of sense.
  • Mark Rylance as Professor Armando Dippet, the Headmaster at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Rylance’s whimsical, Wonka-like performance in Ready Player One was very underutilised – so why not have him redo it but in a setting where it works? Like say, in Hogwarts as it’s Headmaster.
  • Matt Berry as Professor Horace Slughorn, the Potions master at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Matt Berry is great and we need a young Slughorn to play Dumbledore’s little friend, so…
  • Lucy Davis as Professor Pomona Sprout, the Herbology teacher at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. In the novels, Sprout was at school with McGonagall, so she technically does not belong in this time frame either. However, if we’re retconning McGonagall, we might as well retcon Sprout as well in order to use her as McGonagall’s old school friend; Davis also seems tailor fit for the role.
  • Kelly Reilly as Professor Abernathy Turner, the Muggle Studies teacher at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. We never got to see a Muggle Studies lesson in the originals, so why not give the subject a second chance in the prequels with Kelly Reilly?
  • Noah Taylor as Professor Theseus Wolf, the Charms teacher at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Noah Taylor is just one of “those guys” you need to appear at some point in your film, and he’s a comical enough guy to be a meta-like Charms teacher.
  • Lennie James as Professor Silvanus Kettleburn, the Care for Magical Creatures teacher at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Oh, the tall tales we’ve heard of the mutilated, beast loving professor for whom never made it to the big screen (not to my knowledge), but James fits this crazy role perfectly in my opinion.
  • Juno Temple as Professor Palmer Trelawney, the Divination teacher at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. This character did not need to be Trelawney’s relative, but how could you not hire Temple to play the prequel’s version of a Trelawney crossed with Luna Lovegood?
  • Richard Ayoade as Professor David Virgo, the Astronomy teacher at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I want to see a David Bowie-type Astronomy teacher, who’s weird and obscure and all things absurd – so bring in Ayoade.
  • Bruno Ganz as Professor Yusuf Graives, the History of Magic teacher at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. We need an older gentleman to play the History of Magic teacher – it just makes sense.
  • Bill Skarsgard as Cappa Boyle, the ring leader of Circus Arcanus and a Metamorphmagus. I don’t want to completely type-cast Skarsgard, but his performance as Pennywise in IT was too good not to exploit – especially as a cruel but charming, horrifying but fascinating clown-type showman who may only feature briefly in the film but has potential to reappear later down the prequel’s track.
  • Rolland Moller as Professor Helmut Hoffman, the Headmaster of Durmstrang Institute. Forget him in Skyscraper, but if you have ever seen Land of Mine, you would know that Moller would work perfectly as the fearsome image of the Durmstrang Headmaster.
  • Jessica Barden as Leta Lestrange, a loyal follower of Gellert Grindelwald. This chick is way more unhinged than Zoe Kravitz; The End of the F****** World, anyone?
  • Ben Whishaw as the voice of Kaddy, a house-elf working at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and Dippet’s personal assistant. Why? Because why not – Whishaw is already Paddington.
  • Peter Capaldi as Rancorous Carpe, the caretaker of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Having appeared in King’s Paddington films as the grumpy comedic relief, Capaldi would make a hilarious Hogwarts caretaker in the vein of Argus Filch.
  • Peter Serafinowicz as the voice of Peeves the Poltergeist, a ghost at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The ying to Carpe’s yang; we may have never seen the mischievous and childish Peeves in the Harry Potter films but it would be indeed fun to see him now, especially if voiced by the hilarious Serafinowicz.
  • Geoff Bell as Adrien, a loyal follower of Gellert Grindelwald. Not only could this guy be a relative of Crabbe or Goyle, but, man, is he freaky.
  • Tom Taylor as Credence Barebone, a Gryffindor student at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and an Obscurial recruited by Gellert Grindelwald. Look – I needed someone to fill this character even though it’s a one movie, brief appearance and this kid worked in some ways during the poor 2017 flick, The Dark Tower.
  • Daisy Ridley as Ariana Dumbledore, the deceased sister of Albus and Aberforth Dumbledore and an Obscurial. This character did not need as big an actress as Ridley to play her, but Ridley exudes such radiance and with only appearances in paintings and memories, she could pass as quite the angel-like youth.
  • James McAvoy as Aberforth Dumbledore, the brother of Albus and Ariana Dumbledore and owner of the Hog’s Head Inn. Being that this role is only a brief end of film cameo, I thought, why the hell not use McAvoy? He would work as Jude Law’s younger brother, if not more gruff and bitter. Also casting McAvoy ensures that if the prequel series continues another major talent like McAvoy will appear as a series heavy hitter.

*DISCLAIMER: I realise most of this cast are recognisable talents but I wanted the cast to have an overly British appeal, so of course, hiring an all noticeably English/ European cast helped with that.

•••

Themes:

Essentially, what I wanted to explore in the film was the relationship between Albus Dumbledore and Gellert Grindelwald: their separate ethics and conflicting morals. Now yes, the film also touches on concepts of persuasion, fear, hope, love and hatred, but it was also mainly important for me to highlight the heavily juxtaposed actions of the protagonist and antagonist, whilst equally having the two compliment one another’s characters; similar to the relationship between Batman and the Joker. In The Dark Knight, both Batman and the Joker compete for the same goal – Gotham’s soul – and, in doing so, the two are immediately opposed, but also compliment one another in their motives with the only difference being in how they go about reaching said goal. Dumbledore and Grindelwald work similarly; they both equally compete for the same goal, that being the souls of wizarding children worldwide. Both characters want the best for the children and seek to offer them salvation in dark times, however they both go around reaching said goal through different means. Dumbledore teaches the children through Defence Against the Dark Arts a sense of hope and protection whilst Grindelwald (due to his hatred of Durmstrang and wizarding schools in general, since his expulsion) wishes to teach the children to fear enemies and fight back, even in some cases starting a war before it begins. Grindelwald is able to achieve this through the in-built abuse and fear children suffered in World War Two, which makes Dumbledore’s message of hope even harder to achieve – and so, as a villain, Grindelwald effectively has the upper hand on his opponent. The two obviously share passionate hatred towards one another but also, over the course of the story, reacknowledge the love they also once, and still do, share. And as any great hero does, Dumbledore learns a valuable lesson from his villain; Dumbledore learns that he cannot personally protect every student and instead he must teach them true self-defence, but not out of Grindelwald’s fear and hatred, but instead out of love and hope. Grindelwald also becomes a more sympathetic villain rather than just another power-hungry, evil-for-the-sake-of-being-evil dark lord, who instead noticeably cares for the children, seeing himself almost as a grand all-father who must teach the youth the correct path. What this basically comes down to is the old Iron Man against Captain America debate – romanticism v rationalism/ futurism. Dumbledore is a romantic hero who acts on passion and in people’s best interests whilst Grindelwald is a rationalist, and to a further extent a futurist, who believes the ends justify the means. Grindelwald is the unstoppable force and Dumbledore is the immovable object. The two characters basically stand as personified warring factions over the moral compass of future generations, furtherly utilising the tagline of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald to better effect: ‘Who Will Change the Future?’.

•••

Title:

And last, but not least, what may the title of this Harry Potter prequel be? Well, I really wanted to highlight Hogwarts in this new series from the perspective of the staff rather than the students. The series is meant to highlight Hogwarts in its finest qualities and the hope it installs, through its teachers, to its students; the film embodies the essential spirit and soul of the school people worldwide fell in love with. I like the idea of the prequels being named after a textbook, like “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”, but let’s use something more appropriate and versatile – something that shouts Hogwarts… and I think I got just the right one. Now, I know the book was technically published in 1991, but let’s use the name anyway – let’s call the film Hogwarts: A History.

 

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