Fantastic Beasts and the Force Awakens: An analysis of movie reboots (Potential spoilers)
Let’s be honest here: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them did what Star Wars: The Force Awakens should’ve done. Of course I enjoyed both movies immensely, although The Force Awakens was essentially a retelling of the first Star Wars movie. There were different characters and unique planets of course, but the parallels to A New Hope were way too apparent, such as the father figure’s death towards the end at the hands of the ultimate bad guy and Starkiller Base being a shameless Death Star ripoff.
What Fantastic Beasts did is something many movie revivals should do; go back to the same universe, but tell a different story that can create an entirely original series. Fantastic Beasts did a great job of reintroducing the concepts and mood of the original Harry Potter movies, but also introduced us to new creatures and original characters (Kowalski is my movie dad).
However, if you dig deep into the core of the movie, you’ll actually discover that Fantastic Beasts is a very clever retelling of The Sorcerers Stone. Ezra Miller plays a teenage boy named Credence, an orphaned boy who is abused by his rhabdophobic foster mother. He is befriended by who we believe to be a powerful auror in the Magical American Congress, Percival Graves, who is portrayed by Colin Farrell, to find the source of magical disturbances in New York City (which turns out to be Credence himself), so he can exploit his power and bring the wizarding world to dominance over the non-magical world.
Does this sound familiar? Abusive foster parent(s)? A magical father figure? It’s the relationship between Harry Potter and Albus Dumbledore, turned on its head!
Fantastic Beasts is actually more like a “what-if” movie instead of a retelling. Credence is the anti-Harry Potter; he often lets his emotions get the better of him, and is unwilling to control the magic inside of him. Graves, meanwhile, is the anti-Albus Dumbledore, in that he is only using Credence for personal gain.
Lazy is not the right word, but I think it was easier for Star Wars: The Force Awakens to get away with retelling the original story. It’s been longer since A New Hope came out than when Sorcerers Stone did, for one, but The Force Awakens also used some of the characters from the original movies. Since these characters and their past actions are firmly ingrained in the minds of fans, it was more lucrative to have these characters play the same roles they did in the original films. Of course, we did have some role swaps: Han Solo essentially became Obi Wan, Luke Skywalker became Yoda…
But as these characters took the roles of the old guard from the original movies, the new characters were forced into the roles they left behind. Rae became Luke, Kylo Ren became Darth Vader… It’s easy to see how, too. Rae and Luke were both born on desert planets, Ren and Vader both wear helmets... It was nice to see, but it also felt recycled.
I hope that the next episode of Star Wars is able to separate itself from its own legacy. Both movies were fantastic, no pun intended, but Fantastic Beasts got me more excited to see what will happen next. The Force Awakens has me believing that all we’re seeing is a glorified retelling of the original series. Fantastic Beasts has its parallels with Harry Potter, but they are done in a butterfly effect kind of way, and we still have no idea where J.K Rowling is taking her story.
And in the end, isn’t that the point of watching movies? To see something new?