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educated guesses

What Might J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Spinoff Movie Look Like?

The Hungarian Horntail Dragon in a scene from Warner Bros. Pictures' fantasy "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire."
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Fans are very excited at the news that J.K. Rowling will be writing her first screenplay, set in her Harry Potter universe. But let's stop and consider what this might actually entail, shall we? Given J.K. Rowling's stated parameters for the screenplay she'll be writing, inspired by the in-world book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and its author Newt Scamander, what are some of the possibilities for what we might see?

The Characters
Obviously, Newton Scamander — a more academic Hagrid — will be our hero, but long before he was a famed Magizoologist. If the series is to start 70 years ago (and would presumably end before Harry's story gets under way, given that Newt dies roughly around the time Harry finds out he's a wizard and goes to Hogwarts), that would mean we'll be probably start shortly after Newt is a recent graduate of Hogwarts. When working at the Ministry of Magic in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, he's offered a chance to write a book when it's commissioned in 1918, and he jumps at the chance to see the world.

Dumbledore would have been his professor of Transfiguration while at school, and it's possible Newt could consult with him before taking the job or upon return from one of his journeys. While we all love Dumbledore, it might be best to keep any glimpses of him just that — glimpses. Too much more, and it becomes cheesy, given the emotional impact the wizard already served by appearing posthumously to Harry in Deathly Hallows.

Instead, wouldn't it be more interesting if Newt ran into the actual headmaster of the time — Sirius Black's great-great-grandfather, Phineas Nigellus Black, "the least popular headmaster Hogwarts ever had"? (Remember his portraits in Dumbledore's office and in Grimmauld Place, and his sarcastic comments?) If Black disliked Muggles and half-bloods, how would he react to Newt's attempts to understand werewolves, merpeople, and the like, long before Dumbledore's attempts to unite the magical worlds? It could cause some tension, and since Newt eventually becomes headmaster himself, foreshadowing as well.

But as we learned during The Goblet of Fire's Triwizard Tournament, Hogwarts is hardly the only school of magic. During Newt's travels around the world, he might run into members of the Durmstrang Institute (somewhere in Scandinavia, probably Norway?), Beauxbatons Academy of Magic (somewhere near Cannes, in France), or any of the other witchcraft and wizardry schools said to be located in Brazil, Japan, and Salem, Massachusetts. For now, he's starting his travels in New York.

If Rowling opts for any flash-forwards, Newt's grandson Rolf does end up married to Luna Lovegood, and a framing device could work if they're telling their twin boys about Newt's adventures. But unless Luna can retain her spacey vibe, it might do more harm than good to show her mature and married (Just like that horrid epilogue. It’s best not to talk about it … ). Fans love Luna best when she's a bit out there — and open to the possibilities of fantastic beasts we didn't know could exist. Speaking of which ...

The Creatures
Scamander describes some 75 magical species in his book, observed across five continents in a hundred countries. He "witnessed their powers, gained their trust and on occasion, [beat] them off with my travelling kettle." It's the ones that he had to beat off with his kettle that we want to see the most — the ones that we've only seen a few wizards interact with or be able to conquer. We've had plenty of the Basilisk, dragons, and the giant spider species known as Acromantula (and with the upcoming second Hobbit film from the same studio also featuring them, it would be overkill). But what about the Demiguise (found in the Far East, and whose hairs can be used to make an Invisibility Cloak), the Lethifold or the Living Shroud (found in the tropics, and attacks you when you're asleep), and Fwoopers (birds in Africa, whose song can make you go insane)? We can certainly revisit some creatures we've seen before, if from a new perspective — and given that Newt's mother was a Hippogriff breeder, we should meet a few who are newborns or older ones more properly trained. (Nothing against Hagrid's upbringing of Buckbeak, of course.)

It would also be a good time to explore the most dangerous of magical creatures, such as Manticores, Chimaeras, and Nundus (which would take about a hundred wizards to subdue), and the sentient beings who shouldn't be classified as beasts at all, such as Centaurs, Leprechauns, and Merpeople. How did they reach their uneasy peace with humans? Did Newt have anything to do with that? And what, if anything, would bring him to New York in the early twenties? Were there fantastic beasts hidden here under our feet, or in our skies? If Rowling wants to put us under her spell one more time, show us something new that we haven't seen before. Nargles!

Photo: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.